In order for the earth to replenish all those good things we need like water and food, we ultimately have to take care of it. While there are plenty of ways to leave less of a carbon footprint on our planet there are some of feel that more extreme measures are necessary. "Night Moves" is a story of three people who wanted to make a difference, but when things go horribly wrong it turns into an understated thriller where people are pushed to their limits and ultimate breaking points.
The tale of three radical eco activists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard) as they plot to blow up a dam. Simply meant to perform their act of eco-terror and disappear in their own separate directions. However as the full consequences of their actions come to light, getting away from one another and the crime that they committed might not be as easy as hoped.
Following director Kelly Reichardt naturalistic and methodical style, "Night Moves" is understandably bound to get some comparisons to "The East" from last year, but that was essentially a chase film where as this film exists in the quieter moments of self doubt and paranoia that these characters carry which was so palpable and filled every frame of the screen. Littered with fantastic photography and some freaky set pieces that evoke the likes of Brian de Palma and Alfred Hitchcock, Reichardt builds some effective tension that comes on slowly until it's just all around us and it's too late to do anything but be on the edge of our seats. While her pace following these people isn't ideal, she shows legitimate talent for making a straight up thriller and the material helps the ensemble achieve this goal.
Jesse Eisenberg plays right into the role as a naturally suspicious eco-terrorist and he carries the movie with a sort of nervous energy that makes you sympathize with him and like him all at the same time. With Sarsgaard as the veteran activist and Fanning playing the other side of the coin as the idyllic activist both are genuinely fine giving some strong supporting work but it is really Eisenberg in the third act that carries this film to that special point where everything has gone to hell and their best intentions devolve into a pure unadulterated survival instinct in the face of what they have done.
"Night Moves" isn't Reichardt's best, but calmly and coldly shows the potential consequences of real world activism. Easily one of the most engaging films that he she has ever been involved in and it makes for a fantastic introduction into her work, because rarely is a paranoid thriller so calm yet so exciting all at the same time.
4 out of 5 stars.
"Night Moves" opens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox tomorrow here in downtown Toronto, please check with listings for show times.