Night Moves

Jun 16, 2014

A quiet indie with character.

Night Moves

Grade: B+

Director: Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff)

Screenplay: Reichardt, Jonathan Raymond (Wendy and Lucy)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg (Now you See Me), Dakota Fanning (The Motel Life)

Rating: R

Runtime:112 min.

by John DeSando

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in . . . . Bob Seeger

Three characters in search of environmental radicalism find it in Night Moves. Yes, they move by night when “you just don’t seem to have as much to lose,” a dark world lit by their headlights and instrument panel, but dark nevertheless. Here is a film that redefines the thriller genre into a slow-moving study of eco-terrorists committed to the longevity of nature’s balance while they suffer the imbalance of committing a crime with real consequences.

Director Kelly Reichardt cares not about the CGI of destruction but deftly exposes characters who barely know the consequences of their decisions.  Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) broods incessantly but rightfully so—he’s committed to blowing up an Oregon hydroelectric dam to make a point in favor of conservation. His friend Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), a survival pro and former Marine, is relaxed about the enterprise but lacks a respect for the details that make a difference. Dena (Dakota Fanning) is a rich young woman funding the project but nonplussed by any of these serious shenanigans.

I can disclose that they do blow the dam, a symbolic gesture because this river has a dozen such—the radical  “theater” is to get people thinking about the destruction of the environment, not to perpetrate permanent damage to man-made projects or kill anyone. The film spins on the aftermath, the insidious damage of conscience and ill-luck. Each character responds differently, exposing how elusive such a violent project can be when anyone tries to control violence.

“It’s gotta be big.” Josh

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at