This review was originally written as an article for the Mancunion newspaper.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard
Running Time: 1hr 52min
Plot: Three disillusioned Americans decide blowing up a hydroelectric dam is a good idea. Turns out that’s illegal. Whoops.
Almost twenty years after her directorial debut, writer/filmmaker Kelly Reichardt is still cranking them out. She may not be the most influential or well-funded woman in the business, but she has stayed true to her vision, capturing stories that hone in on social realism and the power of nature. Three characters who are slightly more passionate about mother earth than Ms Reichardt are Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), Deena (Dakota Fanning) and Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), the leads of slow-burn suspense film Night Moves, in which a pair of manipulable part time activists are coaxed into blowing up a dam by an ex-army explosives expert. Call themselves environmentalists? They aren’t even vegan!
Everyone knows the song ‘Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions’- well, these guys are so composed that they barely hear the ammonium nitrate blast which they so painstakingly rigged as they drive off home, acknowledging the execution of their anti-establishment crime only with a wry chuckle. All suspense leaks from Night Moves – as would a pent up river through a shattered water barrier – once the trio slit up and resume their daily routines; Josh works on a farm (it’s boring), Deena owns a sauna (it’s stuffy) and Harmon does sod all. Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt takes a very deliberate approach to each and every scene, dragging out the shots of the leads moping around for as long as possible to establish a bleak mood of impending doom – that might sound impressive but it is actually rather dull.
Dakota Fanning gives the only noteworthy performance of the piece – her star is ever on the rise. Someone whose star will hopefully soon devolve into a black dwarf is Jesse Eisenberg. He was scabrous yet sympathetic in The Social Network, gormless but amusing in Zombieland, and a smarmy prat in Now You See Me. In Night Moves he’s just bad.