Night Moves

Director Kelly Reichardt and writing partner Jon Raymond expand their singularly spartan field guide to off-the-grid Oregonians. Here Reichardt, the maker of Meek’s Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy, applies her characteristically laconic style to an ostensibly conventional movie plot about three environmental activists planning to blow up an Oregon hydroelectric dam. It’s best not to reveal what happens, but be forewarned that Night Moves places its emphasis differently than the average suspense thriller would, with the result being a two-part study of movie tension: first the tactics, then the guilt. In what will likely prove the greatest point of contention about this movie’s merits, Reichardt prioritizes her characters — played superbly by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard — without ever letting us fully get our bearings on them. Thus we may take no comfort on the grand matter of volatile interactions between humans and the natural world, or for that matter between humans and each other. Eisenberg emerges as the central figure, yet also paradoxically the most marginal; he has great intuition about the nature of detachment, and glowers through the film with pinched, inscrutable intensity. Maybe the only unambiguous takeaway from Night Moves is the masterful, unhurried clarity with which it advances through its setup — the thrill that comes from vital independent filmmakers, including a cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt and composer Jeff Grace, working together at the top of their game.