Admirably kicking off my 2013 festival experience, Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves centers around a trio of amateurish, Oregon-bred eco-terrorists as the well-intentioned demolition of a local dam sparks unforeseen consequences. The ensuing toxic pairing of smalltown life with the necessity of low profile maintenance proves exceedingly taxing for one Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) however, his once wavering if solid conviction and resolve fully crumbling beneath the weight of tragic recklessness.
Once again recycling a trademark Oregonian setting and deliberate technical flourishes, Reichardt’s quirks palpably lend themselves to the subtly building sense of dread present throughout. From well-researched, backwoods-infused planning and subsequent execution to paranoia and guilt-riddled fallout, Night Moves gains points for its steadfastness and solid composition, conversely losing some for its periodically alienating sense of slow-building singularity.
Although hard to wholly knock from a personal standpoint, viewers new to Reichardt’s discernible flair will find it hard to swallow in comparison to more out-and-out character dramas. Solid, purposefully subdued performances benchmark the proceedings considerably, as does the film’s loving attention to locale and first act-specific detail, however Night Moves plods determinedly along at its own pace, unwilling to stray from its intentions. Assuredly not earning any new converts, Kelly Reichardt’s latest is at its core a serviceable, tenuous humanistic drama with environmentally-conscious thematic undertones that simply don’t add up to a fully captivating whole.