Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie with Abe: Night Moves

Night Moves
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Released May 30, 2014

Ecoterrorism can be a very intriguing subject for a film. It’s a fascinating concept – being so taken with the idea of environmentalism to commit to something potentially violent and destructive, all for the sake of inspiring and forcing change. That served as an excellent premise for last year’s “The East,” and might have had the same promise here. In director Kelly Reichardt’s new film, it presents an opportunity for drama and intrigue but doesn’t manage to rustle up enough excitement or energy to make its plot worthwhile.

The three protagonists in “Night Moves” are portrayed by three talented and versatile actors whose previous roles help to define the nature of their characters. Jesse Eisenberg, eternally nervous and awkward, is extra antisocial in one of his pricklier parts as Josh, who can be seen as the organizer of this particular trio even though he seems to be the follower rather than the leader in all their interactions. Dakota Fanning delivered an astounding breakthrough performance at age seven in “I Am Sam” and has pretty much kept working since, here demonstrating herself to be a mature adult playing Dena, who is naïvely confident but still scared for her life. Peter Sarsgaard, who often plays creepy, is in regular form as the bearded, temperamental Harmon. Placed together in the same universe, these three are an odd bunch, hard to find sympathetic and not as alluring as might be helpful for such a story.

It isn’t inherently clear what these three are planning, only that they take issue with the way that things are being done and plan on doing something monumental to make an impact. “Night Moves,” which is the name of the boat that Josh and Dena purchase as part of their plot, thrives on paranoia, using the fear that something will go wrong and the plan won’t be executed flawlessly to drive its action. Like another film from Reichardt, “Wendy and Lucy,” this relatively isolating story suffers from glacial placing, in no rush to tell its story but unable to make its slower, quieter moments as effective as they should be. There are moments where it seems like “Night Moves” might rise to the challenge and become a different kind of film, but then it slows back down again and doesn’t manage to pick up to deliver a resounding emotional or cinematic finish that could have made it memorable.


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