Night Moves (2013)
★ / ★★★★
Director Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Movies” should have been called “It Drags” instead because sitting through it is like an unending torture, a bore down to its bone marrow. It tells the story of three environmentalists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard) who decide to blow up a dam. When news circulate the following morning that a camper has gone missing since the night of the terrorism, guilt and paranoia begin to take control.
An understated realistic drama does not equal boring. It is the opposite: great movies that fall under this category are engaging because the characters are smart, the script offers no easy solution, and the direction demands the viewers to pay attention very closely because at times someone else’s plight may reflect a version of our own.
The film seems to pride itself through maintaining a level of detachment. The problem is, its subjects, environmentalists who are not above employing violence to get what they want, are already figures that are inaccessible. Instead of opening them up—what they think, why they come to think a certain way, how they plan to go about executing the changes they wish to see in the world—the material keeps us in the mist by utilizing soporific techniques.
It has a penchant for sticking with long takes—even if the scene leads nowhere or fails to offer an important detail about a character or a situation. Worse, the silences are supposed to be thoughtful, I suppose, but the script itself is devoid of insight. Yes, this is one of those movies where it puts close to nothing in and yet expects us to extract a lot from it. I do not know much about eco-terrorists or eco-terrorism other than the repercussions of their actions. By the end, I did not feel like I understood them a little better. The pictures introduces the idea that they are humans, too: capable of fear, guilt, and remorse. But that is too obvious.
The climactic scene is so poorly lit that it forces us squint through the darkness. It takes place at night in the middle of a body of water. It is understandable that the characters decide not to use flashlight in order to avoid getting caught. But it is the director’s responsibility to ensure that the audience are not struggling to watch a critical scene unfolding. Reichardt needed to reshoot the boat scene. Because it is so dark, the climax comes across flat rather than suspenseful. Realism does not equal incompetence.
“Night Moves” will be forgotten five years from now—and it deserves to be. What is shown here is not art in any way, shape, or form but an inexcusable digression aimed to waste everybody’s time. Despite its attempts to come across as “real,” there is no thought or emotion here worth sitting through. I was disgusted by its brazen attempt to tell a dead dull story for almost two hours.