Kelly Reichardt likes uncomplicated. As early as when “Wendy and Lucy” came out her films have testified to her ultra-sharp minimalism and efficiency. “Night Moves,” a genre film in which three environmentalists (they’re David Koresh league, but for the tree-hugger set) conspire together to blow up a dam follows the same ethos of subtlety.
In lieu and place of a psychological drama about eco-terrorism Reichardt ventures along the hazy path of the thriller genre. There are no fireworks or cheap thrills. The story’s development is slow-brewing, the film sometimes allowing itself thriller-like peaks that actually prove to be exhausting. And even though genre filmmaking is not the director’s forte, Reichardt more than succeeds at this by not overdoing it and respecting the dogmas.
In this age of massive bloodletting and pyrotechnics one appreciates having a movie that knows when to be subtle. In fact, the last shot of “Night moves” is a demonstration of the brilliance and potency of independent cinema nowadays.
Also mentionworthy is Reichardt’s direction of the cast, most notably of Jesse Eisenberg, who dispenses his character Josh’s strengths and flaws with undeniable maturity and sensitivity. It also reinforces the dynamic with a transformed Dakota Fanning who plays Dena. After rescuing herself from the Spielberg, Scott and Twilight sagas Fanning proves once again that she is able to make choices that are challenging and interesting. Peter Sarsgaard, in the role of Harmon, joins the cast as a kind of ringleader type (he is David Koresh)
Did you know? Paul Dano and Rooney Mara were first considered for the roles of Dena and Josh.
Completely unrecognizable as an eco-militant, Fanning hasn’t given us a performance this competently in as far as we can remember. All we can do is hope that this breeze of fresh air is just preceding the arrival of a beautiful and subtle evolution in filmmaking. A very good movie.
“Night moves” comes out May 30th, 2014.