BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
SEPTEMBER 2, 2014
Released almost exactly a year apart, the May 2013 release “The East” and the May 2014 release “Night Moves” are both films about activists fighting the law in an almost terroristic fashion. Both containing well-known faces as well as eerie, unsettling natures, they both also draw heavy differences from one another. Whereas “The East” sees Brit Marling’s character infiltrating a large group of activists including Alexander Skarsgård and Ellen Page, “Night Moves” sticks with three small-time activists who are integrated into that particular lifestyle well before we meet them. Teaming Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg, and Peter Sarsgaard in the least dynamic performances you have ever seen them in (which is saying something as far as Eisenberg is concerned), the group finds themselves preparing to blow up a hydroelectric dam as part of their eco-terrorism movement in an attempt to bring change. As much as Marling’s character is simply along for the ride throughout several terrorist acts in “The East”, the main characters in “Night Moves” are fully engulfed and preparing for only one major event.
The preparations leading up to the violent statement is straight out of a psychological thriller, with emotionless faces and a dread hovering over the actions, despite any actual capitalizing off of the impending doom. Just as the actor’s expressions are emotionless, so are the relationships in the film, with sex becoming this act done out of boredom and emotion of jealously that is never actually epitomized or acted upon.
One of the most memorable scenes and also the only source of humor is when a hiker stumbles upon this scheming group in the woods. Like a deer in the headlights, what should be a casual conversation between strangers is this awkward and almost terrifying exchange, where one party has no idea what they happened across. Following the major event of the film (whether they succeed or not I shall leave up to your viewing) is a character study on what happens after a major life event, where even more tension is created. With paranoia at the forefront of the second half of the film, the audience is privy to an entirely different shade on each of the characters, all dealing with the fallout in their ways.
Known for her homegrown, gritty-natured film-making, director Kelly Reichardt offers a completely different take on the eco-terrorism movement than last year’s Zal Batmanglij endeavor. Continuing her positive contribution to the independent film world, Kelly succeeds in creating a mood and molding her characters to fit that tone. Polarizing audiences as this purposely drab statement piece, Reichardt’s film may not be as lively as last year’s “The East”, which paces at more of a sprint, but with strong actors rooting down their characters and a plot that ensnares interest, “Night Moves” resembles a thoughtful and peaceful stroll through the woods.
May 30, 2014
(for some language and nudity)