Eco-drama ‘Night Moves’ moves quietly and suspensefully

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The eco-friendly craze is ever growing, and those who are extreme supporters of simply making our planet better for future generations may not be all too excited for the new eco-drama “Night Moves.”

Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff”) directs the film, which is about three environmental extremists carrying out a plan of destroying a hydroelectric dam with a bomb. The three are convinced that making a bang and saving the salmon in a small region will convince “people to start thinking,” as the paranoid and silently anxious character Josh says. But the question of whether the result of the crime is really worth it remains unanswered throughout the film.

The opening scene is of Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) visiting the dam and doesn’t contain much dialogue. The camera shots focus in on the rocks beneath their feet, the quietude of their surroundings and the little details of how they interact with the dam. This sets the spiritual aspect of the film in relation to the main characters and their plan of action for the dam, and the lack of background forthe characters add to the anticipation and anxiety of not being able to trust any of the film’s lead characters.

Dena is the guilt-tortured member of the group and seems to be the most sane and put-together in terms of her rationale toward the planned sabotage. Her background as a wealthy, rebellious daughter turned radical environmentalist supports the financial backbone of their venturesome plan. The film characterizes these three main characters as not only over-the-top tree huggers but also as those who are desperate to make an attempt to protect their home.

The edge seems to be where the three shine, as tension and anxiety are their fortitude to complete their course of action. Something goes awry in the aftermath of the plan and raises the bar of the guilt pressing evidently on both Josh and Dena. Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), however, is as maniacal as they come, with a history as a former U.S. Marine and a little too much excitement about causing some destruction for a good cause on a deadly scale.

Sarsgaard absolutely steals every scene he’s in, though he appears the least on screen out of all of the main characters. Harmon is the least trustworthy, and Sarsgaard is brilliant in capturing that level of eeriness and mystery to raise suspicion in the audience.

Tension builds from the beginning of the plan to the end and is reflected within all three in different ways.

A small scene takes place with Josh and Dena driving to meet with Harmon. They pull over to find a pregnant deer that has been hit and killed in the middle of the road. Both remain silent as Josh pushes the animal carcass, with the baby fawn inside her, out of the road. The reticence in certain moments of the film allows the story to emotionally involve the audience throughout the implementation and carrying out of the characters’ statement on the industrial world.

The suspense in the film lives under the deep anxiety of questionable wrongdoings after consequences of the executed protest heighten in the aftermath of the demolition of the dam. The group anxiously begins turning on one another, and mind games ensue throughout the latter half of the film, all of which keeps the audience still on edge and interested in the characters.

Even with little background on any of them, you can care for these characters and can be intrigued in what will become of them all. The minimal dialogue allows the audience to feel the intensity of every moment. It all does seem a bit extreme at first, but going on this somewhat religious journey with the three radical nature-activists will be enough to make an influential statement on societal and ethical decision making.

Contact Melanie Jimenez at [email protected].