With Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard.
US, 2013, DCP, color, 112 min.
In all of Reichardt’s films, characters seek solace and escape in nature, searching woods, plains and across the frontier for a new direction—this despite the indifference of animals and landscapes moving according to their own rhythms and needs. In Night Moves, Reichardt pointedly studies a trio of eco-activists determined to claim a kind of justice for nature by destroying a hydroelectric dam and monumental symbol, in their minds, of human hubris. Like River of Grass, but now many shades darker, the film skillfully reinvents action genre tropes for Reichardt’s distinct purposes, channeling the Seventies conspiracy thriller (slyly referenced by the film’s reuse of the title from Arthur Penn’s paranoid neo-noir) into a study of creeping anxiety as the activists too late realize the blind folly of their dangerous plan. Reichardt carefully destabilizes the tight ensemble cast by setting in motion a triangle of distrust that ratchets up the film’s carefully measured tension, pitting Jesse Eisenberg’s nervously intense, self-righteous leader against Peter Sarsgaard’s ex-Marine with a secret past and Dakota Fanning as the group’s troubled conscience. A New Age spa and back-to the-earth communal farm are viewed with measured, but sympathetic, distance by Reichardt, who asks the viewer to ponder why declared concern for the environment is all too often translated into self-serving “lifestyle” choices.