Night Moves

2014

Night Moves

Critics Consensus

A uniquely character-driven thriller with a finely composed cast and some outstanding direction from Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves bolsters its thought-provoking themes with compelling drama.

86%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 148

41%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,212
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Movie Info

NIGHT MOVES, the fifth feature film from acclaimed filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, is the story of three radical environmentalists coming together to execute the most intense protest of their lives: the explosion of a hydroelectric dam-the very source and symbol of the energy-sucking, resource-devouring industrial culture they despise. Harmon is a former Marine, radicalized by tours of duty overseas. His life in the military is behind him, but at heart he remains the same reckless alpha male he always was, eager for adventure, excited by the prospect of mayhem and destruction. Dena is a high society dropout, sickened by the consumer economy into which she was born. She's moved west and cut ties with her family, edging ever deeper into radical politics. And Josh, their leader, is a self-made militant, devoted to the protection of the Earth by any means necessary. A son of the middle class who works on an organic farm, he's an intensely private person by nature and may have the deepest convictions of them all. NIGHT MOVES is a tale of suspense and a meditation on the consequences of political extremism. When do legitimate convictions truly demand illegal behaviors? What happens to a person's idealism when they find their back against the wall?(c) Cinedigm

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Critic Reviews for Night Moves

All Critics (148) | Top Critics (49)

  • Succeeds mightily when it comes to creating tension but struggles a little more with making its plot run together smoothly.

    Sep 22, 2016 | Full Review…

    David Sims

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • I'd say this is a movie about alienation that, in the spirit of the boldest activism, isn't afraid to be ostracized itself. You may beg to differ, and I'd say that's the point.

    Oct 5, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Virtually every shot feels like it adds to Reichardt's vision and it draws so tightly together that by the end, the only people left accessible to the likes of Josh are those in the watching audience. Night Moves makes you an accessory.

    Sep 10, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It's an unconventional thriller, more interested in character than plot, but gripping as both.

    Sep 10, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • All three leads are perfect.

    Aug 29, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It is a very disturbing spectacle.

    Aug 28, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Night Moves

  • Mar 25, 2015
    It does a great job letting us slowly find out what it is about instead of resorting to exposition, but what could have been a thought-provoking story about ecoterrorism and environmentalism turns out to be a sterile thriller with a frustrating, utterly predictable second half.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 20, 2014
    It's a shame that a little after the half-way point the film becomes more straightforward, because before that it's a fascinating thriller. Reichardt constructed a lean narrative that seems to indicate that the planning and execution of this act of terrorism is less an outgrowth of any specific ideology the character's hold, but rather a desperate attempt to find something to believe in. It's a great concept that is hampered by a messy final act.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 09, 2014
    From Jesse Eisenberg at his best, to Dakota Fanning proving she is a worthy actress, you would think that a film like "Night Moves" would have much more to offer than just that, but that is really all I got out of this film in terms of enjoyment. The cinematography is great and the director did an amazing job with the cast, but the story was just not interesting or exciting enough to justify these elements which ended up grabbing my interest and losing it in a matter of minutes periodically throughout this film. In no way is this a bad film, in fact, I can see how some people would call it a masterpiece, but it is a very slow moving picture with little else to offer than technical aspects and great performances. "Night Moves" had a screenplay that did not take any risks and that bothered me a lot. Overall, it is a very well-constructed thriller that I probably will never watch again.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Sep 09, 2014
    As if Jesse Eisenberg wasn't a big enough hipster icon of some sort, here's an obscure drama about extreme environmentalism starring him. Up, it's yet more young movie stars commit acts of eco-terrorism, but no, this isn't really "The East 2", which is good, because this film at least owes me a title that makes me think about something actually entertaining. "Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy, out in the back seat of my '60 Chevy, workin' on mysteries without any clues... workin' on our night moves, tryin' to make some front page drive-in news!" I bet y'all were on the edge of your seats, either waiting for or fearing that I would make that reference, so there you go, but don't get too excited, because this film is decidedly not as fun as that song, nor is it even nearly as upbeat as its subject matter. Well, at least you can take this film's title more seriously than the title of the novel "The Monkey Wrench Gang", which in turn made the lawsuit that the would-be makers of an adaptation of that novel slapped the makers of this "rip-off" with hard to take seriously. Oh yeah, because otherwise, a lawsuit regarding the similarities between some independent drama and an obscure novel that never actually got adapted could taken as seriously as the eco-terrorist portrayed in this film. Well, I would take this film's messages more seriously if the film was more exciting, which isn't to say that there aren't commendable aspects here. There's something kind of flat about Christopher Blauvelt's cinematography, which doesn't carry much flash to compensate for the usual technical shortcomings in an independent film like this, and yet, the drabness of the technical shortcomings, combined with a bleak coloration, compliments the sense of grit that defines what effective aspects there are to this overly subtle drama, and aesthetically speaking, the cinematography really comes to life when Blauvelt's lensing falls over near-haunting visuals that stress a particular setting in a fashion which is sometimes all-out lyrical in its providing memorably beautiful imagery, some of which carries purpose and substance. This film's subject matter does not make for all that interesting of a story, but themes regarding the lengths certain people will go to do right by the environment are intriguing in their nature, and that establishes plenty of potential for dramatic intrigue. Every now and then, Kelly Reichardt manages to fulfill this potential, through a script that she co-wrote with frequent collaborator Jonathan Raymond which offers an interestingly meticulous, if tedious study on the process of committing eco-terrorism, and through direction that takes advantage both of Jeff Grace's extremely underused dark ambient score which proves to be lovely and complimentary to the atmosphere's subtle heights in tension, and of the aforementioned haunting visuals which prove to be just as engrossing. What engagement value there is hardly ever is all the effective, but there are indeed some interesting moments in the telling of a rather uninteresting story, and they go anchored mostly by the performances. If nothing else is consistently enjoyable about this film, it is the performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard that, on top of being conventional for the respective thespians, are underwritten, with hardly any extensive material, the limitations of which cannot keep these gifted talents from endearing, and selling a sense of motivation and passion for their characters with more effectiveness than the writers. There's not much of a sense of humanity or exposition to the characters, and on paper, they are by no means likable, but their portrayals are effective enough to join highlights in storytelling in providing glimpses of a more decent and engaging film. Alas, the final product is not quite able to secure its decency, its interesting aspects far outweighed by uninteresting ones, behind a story that isn't even fresh. We've seen this sort of story before, time and again, and although the problematic storytelling style is rather refreshing, at least for this sort of subject matter, the narrative itself is more of the same, with not enough meat to compensate for familiarity. The film is rather predictable, and although that predictability ends up being the least of this cold non-thriller's worries, you can see what's coming, even though you don't really see much into the characters who drive you through this thin path with even greater thinness. What development there is in this film is dedicated primarily to the themes and pursuits of the characters, rather than the characters themselves, who have no immediate background, or even any gradual characterization or humanizing filler, and no matter how convincing the performances are, you don't get to know these people, which makes you think about how you don't want to know them, what with their coming off as rude and distant, when they're not coming across as extremist in their actions. These characters are not likable, and they're not as unique, nor even as dimensional as they could have been, and despite the genuine performances, they feel like components to themes, with none of the dynamic between the leads of, say, the already underwhelming, thematically similar "The East". The thinly drawn characters reflect a lack of intrigue in the story itself, for this film is largely a study on some radical environmentalists committing an act of eco-terrorism, and once consequences do begin to arise, they're hard to get invested in, not simply because it sees the film jarringly shifting from being strictly an allegory for extreme environmentalism to being a real thriller with dramatic progression, - despite awkwardly all but abandoning all but one of the three leads - but because the story is so uninteresting on the whole that it's near-impossible to get interested all of a sudden. If the glaring inconsistencies on paper don't make getting invested in actual dangers and consequences a near-impossible task, then the storytelling finishes off your investment, because after the eco-terrorist act is committed, Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt, as screenwriters, focus much less on the plot unraveling and finally doing something, and, as cruel irony would have it, more on sheer nothingness that is just plain tedious, which isn't to say that the film is ever less than boring, for although there are effective moments in storytelling, the writing's meticulous structure and the direction's glacial pace combine to establish a film without momentum that still manages to lose momentum as it goes along. As I said, once the plot begins to thicken, that's really when the tedium kicks in, and at that point, there's just no forgiving Reichardt for her misguidance, punctuated by inspiration that could have saved the film, but cannot obscure the lack of originality, humanity and, of course, excitement that make the final product so mediocre, at best. Once the thunder finally comes, Bob Seger (Man, I love that song), fitting and sometimes hauntingly beautiful cinematography, intriguing themes, undeniable highlights in subtle and meticulous storytelling, and solid performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard could have saved this film, but under the overwhelming pressure of predictability, undeveloped and unlikable leads, and a glacial pace that only grows more tedious with the progression of a largely uninteresting story, Kelly Reichardt's "Night Moves" collapses as a flat meditation on extreme environmentalism. 2.25/5 - Mediocre
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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