A group of environmentalists set out to destroy a dam, in the hope of waking consumers up from their product laced coma. Things take a turn, however, when their plan goes almost exactly according to plan.
It is hard to say exactly what the story of Night Moves is, not because it is trying to be too many things, but perhaps because it is trying to be too few. Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard are the centre of the film, and they all do things we have seen them do before; albeit with considerably less flair. Eisenberg plays the jealous man set out on the fringes of the group, Fanning a completely vanilla girl who wants to wake people up, although it is hard to know what her motivation is, and Sarsgaard a charming and mysterious loner.
The story, written by Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt appears to be all about the slow burn of the dangerous environmental mission that these characters undertake, and for the first hour, it is. After that, the movie descends into meandering shots of the beautiful world – where is the destruction that the characters so lament? – with very little character development or a chance for the story to move forward. Perhaps we are told all we need at the start of the film when Jesse Eisenberg callously deals with a dead doe, who he finds to be pregnant, or perhaps I am trying to find meaning in a meaningless mess.
As director, Kelly Reichardt does not allow the characters to do anything but be in place to recite lines, and much of the exciting action of the film – which may have coaxed a reaction from those at the film’s centre – happens off screen. The pacing drags, meaning the film feels distinctly like one of two halves, where each half is drawn out for no apparent reason.
Night Moves may have started off as a film with a powerful human or environmental message, but this is lost in bad pacing, vanilla characters and a complete lack of direction. Go and watch The East instead; it’s not perfect, but it’s a darn sight better than watching this glacier of a movie work its way across the screen. Night may move, but this film does not.