Night Moves Blu-ray Review
Josh leans over the railing, watching the water. Dena is right there with him. It would be a gorgeous, peaceful sight if it wasn’t for the noisy hydroelectric dam.
Josh (Jesse Eisenberg, THE DOUBLE) and Dena (Dakota Fanning, THE MOTEL LIFE) are environmentalists in Oregon. One night, they watch an environmental movie that some of the audience can’t help but liken to the end of the world. The filmmaker explains that there isn’t just one big plan to save the planet. Dena seems inspired. Josh seems to have a plan stirring.
They drive out to visit Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard, who appeared in season three of AMC’s THE KILLING), who lives in a trailer in the middle of nowhere. They get a boat, compare fake IDs and show their disdain for new golf courses and $8 coffees. Harmon thinks five hundred more pounds of fertilizer should be enough for the bomb.
These are quiet people who work on farms and at spas. Yet their passion and needs revolve around serving the eco-terrorism movement, whether they’re taking out cell phone towers or destroying a hydroelectric dam. These are people that won’t stand for anyone trying to make a profit off of land.
Such a topic for a film could easily come off as pushy or meant to provide a soapbox for the agenda. But NIGHT MOVES never forces; it is simply aware and alert. Screenwriters Jonathan Raymond (who earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for his script for HBO’s MILDRED PIERECE miniseries) and Kelly Reichardt (who also directs) go for subtlety and hinting, not obnoxious megaphoning.
That’s also much of what makes Reichardt (2006’s OLD JOY, 2008’s WENDY AND LUCY, 2010’s MEEK’S CUTOFF) such an extraordinary director—there is no showboating because, even given the ideas presented in NIGHT MOVES, it’s not necessary. Her previous efforts tended to present nature as both a character and a part of the plot. Here, that is heightened greatly, although she never once goes to extremes to get a money shot to highlight Josh, Dena and Harmon’s plan. Part of the point there seems to be that she wants the viewer to know that nature is right in front of us and not just where postcard photographs are taken. Her restraint also develops the characters, showing they care just as much about a solitary tree and a lone deer as they do a forest and a family.
There is no catering here. Even though NIGHT MOVES could have come off as a “message movie,” it doesn’t under the guidance of Reichardt. As with OLD JOY, WENDY AND LUCY and especially MEEK’S CUTOFF, she has little interest in supporting genre expectations: if one views NIGHT MOVES as a “message movie,” the message isn’t hammered (Harmon even remains skeptical about Dena’s quoted statistics; if it is viewed as a crime movie, it doesn’t glorify the criminals or add glitz to the act.
NIGHT MOVES screened at both the 70th Venice International Film Festival and the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer of NIGHT MOVES has a natural look that both enhances the film and shows off cinematographer Christopher Blauveldt’s excellent work. Details are stable throughout and while there is a limited range of colors, what’s presented looks organic.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Subtitles in English. The dialogue is quiet but clean, the sound support the atmosphere and Jeff Grace’s score comes through nicely.