© MFA/Filmagentinnen

Night Moves
U.S.A. 2013

Opening 14 Aug 2014

Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Writing credits: Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt
Principal actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat, Logan Miller

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) works on an organic farm in Oregon and believes himself to be an environmental activist. He hooks up with Dena (Dakota Fanning), who works not far from him at a New Age spa. Along with Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) they plan to blow up a hydroelectric dam. Harmon knows Josh but has some reservations about letting Dena in on the plot. After Dena produces the cash to buy a boat for the explosives, Harmon assents to her participation. Realizing they are short on fertilizer for the explosives, they ask Dena to purchase an extraordinarily high amount. She counters the initial refusal of the store to sell so much without proper identification with cunning and becomes an important part of the team.

The reasons why Josh, Dena and Harmon are intent on blowing up the dam are not thoroughly explored. The story provides just a few clues to their rationale, leaving the blowing up of the dam and the purpose intended to be pondered. Instead, the film focuses on the aftermath and the unexpected personal consequences of taking such a bold action. More of a psychological journey than eco tour, this slow boat is worth a trip. (Mary Nyiri)

Second Opinion

Three environmental activists work together in a plot to destroy a hydroelectric dam. While they hoped to perform the ultimate form of protest, the action leads to the destruction of more than they had bargained for.

Night Moves is a perfect example of all the ways an indie film can fail. There is the halting, awkward dialogue, the incomplete character and plot development, and the overly dramatic (yet also undeniably artistic and incomprehensible) scenes. What inevitably develops is a heartless film with no real purpose which leaves the audience frustrated due to the lack of depth or feeling. We never learn the motivations behind the characters, the reasons why they are taking action as eco-terrorists, or even the complexities of their relationships which maybe would have given their reactions to the complexities (not that it seems all that complex) of their situations a little depth. What follows when there is no development is that the audience is forced to watch three seemingly idiotic young-ish adults do something really stupid for no apparent reason and then flip out because apparently they have no ability to think through their actions before doing them.

There seems to be a trend in independent film making that in order to make art, one has to make a film as drawn-out, awkward, and incomprehensible as possible. Would it really hurt to work a little more on dialogue or character building? Or even to have a plot which isn’t so stupid and predictable that the last forty minutes drag almost to a point of nonsensical boredom? But no, instead we need ten-minute scenes of two characters talking to each other in one- or two-word awkward sentences in which we learn nothing about either of them. Maybe the filmmakers are making a point about how terrible everyone is at communication… or maybe they just don’t pay their scriptwriters enough to get any realistic dialogue. It’s all starting to get old and unoriginal, and isn’t the whole point of independent cinema to make new creative choices? Why is it then that they all seem to look and sound and feel alike?

There’s no need to waste any time on this plodding piece. Spend that time and money on something with a little bit more heart and soul. (Rose Finlay)

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