Saturday, September 13, 2014

Night Moves: Movie Review

Dark and gripping atmosphere filled with guilt and paranoia permeate this tale of activism.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are two young environmentalists. They’re activists who want to change the world with one big plan. But Night Moves presents that big plan in a small way, focusing entirely on the characters and their actions and becomes so much bigger than an “environmental movie.” This is more universal than being about eco-terrorists. This is about anybody who commits a crime and thinks they’re righteous. 2013

Directed by: Kelly Reichardt

Screenplay by: Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard

They scoff at the notion that doing little things is the best way to improve the world, and that should be the first clue that these characters are up to something more significant and aren’t the mere environmentalists that the plot description makes them out to be. Next they team up with Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) who is going to help put their big plan into motion. This involves fake IDs and very secretive outings into public in the small town in Oregon.

The one-sentence plot outline that’s available everywhere details what their big plan is, but I think the film is even more effective not knowing what exactly it is. It can be clear from the beginning, but what’s really interesting about the film, is that the detailing of the plot just gives more insights into what types of people these characters are. And by that I mean, a little sketchy, mysterious, bigger in plan than in actuality. By never laying everything out in the open, each scene begins with a new possibility of where it may go. The incredible atmosphere and structure of the film keeps you hooked even if you’re thinking, “I’m not sure if I can get behind these environmentalists.”

The best part is when you realize the film has more to say after their big plan is executed. This is about the characters and how their actions affect them. Guilt and paranoia permeate the landscape of the Northwest. And it then becomes about how these characters are going to deal with their guilt and paranoia. Oh, and it gets dark.

The atmosphere the film created with its very minimalistic approach is very gripping and affecting. It grabs you with mystery as the plot unfolds, and then it grabs you with provocation as the characters unfold. The minimalistic approach creates a very intriguing parallel with their plan being “larger than life” and their characteristics being universal (far more than just being environmental activists) and then we just follow one character on his lonely journey replete with guilt and paranoia. Eisenberg’s portrayal is just phenomenal as he moves farther from who he was with each scene and never lets on how far he might go.

The boat that begins their big plan is called Night Moves. It’s a nice boat, but it’s too bad that its life needs to end in order for the bigger plan of saving the world from itself can be executed. That is just a teaser for the type of mind games that Josh, Dena and Harmon might be playing on themselves.
Best of 2014
Best Lesser-known of 2014

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Meek's Cutoff (2010) - A journey not about the destination but which prejudices to fight to stay alive.

Margaret (2011) - Attention-seeking teenager goes through death, mortality and innocence by way of poetry in attention-deserving "Margaret".