Night Moves review (Birds Eye View Film Festival)

Night Moves green light

Kelly Reichardt cements her reputation as one of the most provocative and engagingly watchable American indie filmmakers with a quiet, tense thriller of morality and motive.
I’m “biast” (pro): like Kelly Reichardt’s films, like Jesse Eisenberg

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Three environmental activists in the Pacific Northwest are plotting to blow up a small dam as an act of protest: the plan is to pack a recreational boat with fertilizer and set free the water back to its natural flow. “How many golf courses does Bend, Oregon need?” gripes their leader, Josh (Jesse Eisenberg: Rio 2); there’s also bored rich runaway Dena (Dakota Fanning: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2), whose father is unwittingly bankrolling their plan, and former Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard: Green Lantern), who knows about explosives. This is a thriller of a sort, but a quiet one in which morality and motive are the matters of tense — and ultimately unresolved — speculation, and one that challenges the sympathies of even those onboard with green issues… although the land — battered and dying or lush and green — is a character always lurking in the background, literally and figuratively, in such a way that we are forced to consider what it might want, if it could speak its desires. This is exactly the sort of thriller we might expect from filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, working with her frequent coscreenwriter Jonathan Raymond, daring once again — as she has done with films such as Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff — to look straight on at the fringes of American culture with a clear eye that is neither charitable nor caustic, and always utterly unsensational. Are even apparently selfless acts always in fact selfish? Are politics ever not personal? The thematic conundrums are underscored by an absolutely chilling performance by Eisenberg, who transforms his often quirky screen presence into something still and unsettlingly resolute. But is his Josh resolute in directions that are aimed at some greater good, or only at himself? With this haunting film, Reichardt cements her reputation as one of the most provocative, and most just plain engagingly watchable, indie filmmakers working in the U.S. today.

viewed during the 2014 Birds Eye View Film Festival, celebrating and supporting international women filmmakers

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