For the past two weeks I have been trying to come up with something interesting to say about NIGHT MOVES, the new thriller with a pseudo ecology edge that stars Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard. But the one word I keep coming back to is unremarkable.
Which is a shame because with a trio of actors like this, so very different in style and interpretation, it would have been fascinating to watch them in a great movie. But NIGHT MOVES just isn't. In fact, it's pretty underwhelming. But its biggest problem isn't that it doesn't utilize its cast appropriately, but that it completely falls off the rails after a particularity intriguing first act which leads to an ending that dangles rather thoughtlessly.
Eisenberg and Fanning star as Josh and Dena, two detached individuals in a dreary Midwestern town who've come together for one purpose: to blow up a hydroelectric dam. Calling them "environmentalists" would probably be an insult to actual environmentalists as they don't seem to really be invested in this so-called controversial structure as they are in being radicals, against establishment otherwise due to their own meandering on the borders of society. Director and co-writer Kelly Reichardt doesn't spend enough time developing any of the characters, so it's hard to truly understand them despite the intermittent environmental commentary that always seems tacked on and bearing little substance. But in the beginning, as we watch them get their covert plan together and recruit fellow wayward, Harmon (Sarsgaard), there is something compelling about their efforts: Why this dam? What are they looking to prove with this act? Whose attention do they want?
Despite the fact that we have very little information in terms of motive, Reichardt does manage to create an intensity in the beginning part of the movie, building up to what we should expect would be an equally compelling finale. But the premise we see in the first, say, 40 minutes of the movie doesn't carry through as the film progresses. The story lags, switches direction, then ultimately collapses by the end. The beginning of the film is the story of three environment radicals and the latter half is the story of two people (Josh and Dena) who struggle to reclaim significance in their lives after their grand gesture doesn't go exactly according to plan. And in the middle of those two stories is made up of scenes that seem to further emphasize the nothingness of these characters' lives outside of this one event.
As a result, NIGHT MOVES is messy and disjointed. Even after it's completely run out of steam, desperately trying to sustain the audience with one last shocking moment, it does little to garner a real reaction. You're just glad it's ended. So much potential overshadowed by poor execution that begs the all important question: Why should we care?
Rating: C- (** out of *****)
NIGHT MOVES opens in theaters Friday, May 30th. Watch the trailer: