Opening in a remote Oregon national park, we meet Josh (Jesse Eisenberger) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) as they are walking around a damn. We soon discover the reason for their visit is recon for an upcoming act of crime which they intend to commit in the name of the environment, a big F U to big business. Along with Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), the pair intend to stuff a motorboat (named ‘Night Moves’) full of a homemade fertilizer explosive and blow up the damn.
Very much a film of two halves, pre-crime and post-crime, we see the planning of the explosion and then how the threesome deals with the consequences of their action, which are far more serious than they could have envisioned. What Night Moves does so well, is let the character’s actions speak for themselves. There’s very little exposition here, with writer Jonathan Raymond and writer-director Kelly Reichardt trusting their audience enough to fill in the gaps. Truth be told we don’t need to know more, the real story is in how they exist after the events, not what drove them to it.
Jesse Eisenberg is quietly intense as Josh, his controlled performance serving to emphasise his characters few outbursts. Dakota Fanning is emotive but understated as Dena, and it is through her that the moral conundrum of their actions play out. What is the difference between eco-terrorism and eco-activism? Do the ends justify the means? Reichardt lets the audience decide this for themselves, although events in the final scenes (which may be too hard for many to buy) may be interpreted as a shove in a particular direction.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writer(s): Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: September 11 2014