director Kelly Reichardt
Writer-director Kelly Reichardt has carved out a particular niche in her more than 20 year career in cinema. In Meek’s Cutoff and Night Moves, she deepens and widens that niche by delving into genre, something with which her earlier films stand in contrast.
She shoots so significant in Oregon, almost as much focus of her films as the small, naturalistic dramas and the characters who experience them.
Night Moves is a thriller, by definition. About a trio of environmental activists who look to blow up a hydroelectric dam. The plan is already in action, as Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning meet up with Peter Sarsgaard to pull of a secretive plan.
Reinhardt doesn’t delve into their politics much, leaving the tension and activity to describe the actors and supply their motivations and intent.
Reichardt’s low-key style doesn’t crank up the tension artificially, but it also leaves it a bit on its own to communicate the drama.
It doesn’t help the Eisenberg is the ultimate cipher of an actor, giving so little to knowledge of what is happening in his psyche.
The lush countryside of Oregon and the earthy organic farm on which Eisenberg works portray a beauty in communal work and largely undespoilt nature. Is this act even necessary? What drives the morality of Eisenberg’s activism? Is the cipher’s ironic transformation in the end some cosmic punishment?
I liked the film, but couldn’t quite find it either thrilling or morally complete. Dakota Fanning, as usual, though, was very good. Reinhardt continues to be interesting though I wonder if she doesn’t need to give in to more elements of genre to really get more out of it.