It Never Came to Town - Night Moves

It Never Came to Town - Night Moves

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It Never Came to Town

Highlighting Films that were Released Theatrically but Never Came to C-U

Night Moves – 3 Stars

Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves is the sort of movie that slowly eats away at you, particularly after the credits roll.  Though flawed in execution, its noble intent and realistic look at the futility of fighting big business and soulless government admirably goes against the grain of the usual Hollywood cookie cutter product, adapting a deliberate pace and focusing on characters that are misguided at best, unlikable at worst. That this production initially comes off as a bit off-kilter and unfocused ultimately reveals itself to be a daring reflection of the ill-advised and ultimately botched scheme they undertake.

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Quiet and withdrawn to a fault, Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) is a man of strong convictions who sometimes goes to extremes in adhering to them. Intent on living in an environmentally friendly manner, he’s part of a commune that keeps to itself and does its level best to promote its philosophy in a quiet, responsible manner.  Dena’s (Dakota Fanning) circumstances couldn’t be more different. While she too is concerned about the environment, her upper middle-class upbringing and surroundings make her come off as a bit of a poser, though she probably knows more about the detrimental impact of fluorocarbons and ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint than the average person.  However, you have to admire her for taking decisive steps to make her voice heard; she purchases a small boat and, along with Josh and a friend of his, a laid-back recluse by the name of Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), plans to blow up a hydroelectric damn, the presence of which is harming the local population of King Salmon. 

This trio of eco-terrorists is just smart (dumb?) enough to be dangerous as they have the means, determination and anger to execute the plan; problem is, they don’t account for the ripple effect of their actions which results in tragic consequences, both social and personal, from their effort to make a statement.  The script by Jonathan Raymond and Reichardt is quite accurate in the way it portrays the three principals – each arrogant, acting in a self-serving manner that they hope will validate them, all under the pretense that they’re acting for the greater good. Josh and Dena’s paranoia combined with Harmon’s lack of attention to details is a recipe for disaster that they’re blind to; while on a subconscious level they may realize things will go awry, all three seem resigned to the fact that they’re boarded a runaway train they have to ride to the end.

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An air of futility hangs over not only the three characters but the film as well.  Early on, a young lady presents a movie dealing with an environmental concern at the commune where Josh lives and while its intention is sincere, when an audience member asks afterwards  “What is it exactly we’re suppose to do?” it gives voice to a common expression of futility that plagues all of us at various levels.  On so many occasions, we find ourselves helpless in the face of governmental indifference and manipulation as well as prevailing legal business philosophies that value profit over morality.  Moves gives vent to the inherent frustration that comes from fighting the powers that be and shows with the tragic results how the best of intentions can be callously crushed.

The choices the characters make after things go sideways are logical and in keeping with their previous decisions.  It’s a slippery slope once a justification is made to break the law; it becomes very easy to break another, all for the greater good of course, and then damnation is certain.  The final scene of Reichardt’s subtly powerful film is one that takes a minute to understand.  As Josh find himself forced to assimilate into the society he disdains, it becomes crystal clear to him that all he has done previously has been for naught and that the cost he’s paid for his convictions was more than he could have ever imagine.

Night Moves is now available on home video.

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