Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat, Logan Miller, Kai Lennox, Katherine Waterston, James Le Gros, Traber Burns, Autumn Nidalmia, Barry Del Sherman
Written by: Kelly Reichardt, Jonathan Raymond
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
MPAA Rating: R for some language and nudity
Running Time: 112
Date: 05/30/2014

Night Moves (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Dammed

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff) is one of the smartest around, capable of telling simple stories with great stretches of moody, thoughtful exploration. A frequent criticism is that "nothing happens" in her movies, which, for a patient viewer, simply isn't true. In those quiet scenes, life itself can be found. Night Moves is one of her most complex works yet, generating a slow-burning suspense.

Three radical environmentalists prepare for the protest of their lives. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) works on a produce-delivery farm; he's extremely private and pensive. Dena (Dakota Fanning) is a former rich girl disgusted with consumer society. And Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) is an ex-marine who seems to love blowing things up. Their target is a hydroelectric dam in Oregon; they hope its destruction will send a message about the rampant devouring of natural resources. Unfortunately their act has unforeseen consequences which leaves the trio newly examining their motives, messages, and indeed their very lives.

It focuses on characters that are hard to get at and hard to read. In one scene, Josh arrives to discover the sounds of Dena and Harmon inside a trailer giggling playfully. Are they making love? Is he jealous? Reichardt leaves these questions unanswered, using them simply to build tension. The eco-terrorist act itself is likewise confounding, providing not any kind of answer but simply more questions. What did they accomplish? Is a message more important than an idea? Most importantly, however, the concept of human life seems to trump everything.

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