Night Moves (US, 2013)
UK Release by Soda Pictures – 29th August 2014
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Brief Synopsis: Three environmentalists turn radical in taking on the biggest protest of their lives; they battle their conscience and try to remain ethical in what becomes a very unsettling environment.
I am no skeptic to the fact that this thriller is slow-paced, but it is more than calculated for by the intensely paranoid and highly energetic performance from Jesse Eisenberg as Josh, the radical environmentalist with a conscience too great for his own good. As the events unfold, and they do in great depth, the film promotes a totally immersive character study of Josh and reveals the true depth of his concern, guilt and all the other distressing facets that lay beneath the surface. This exploitation of subtext allows the viewer to fully engage their imagination on feeling his every emotion. Point of view shots chart Josh’s every move, we see exactly what he sees: ordinary lives passing by, and yet with every inch of movement there is the sense that something drastic may happen. And here’s the paradox, when there is a dramatic climax, it appears no different, life remains at the same pace and the nightmare continues. This is psychological depth.
Dakota Fanning and Peter Saasgard make up the team and give equally intriguing performances as wannabe radicals. Saasgard is particularly endangering and the conflict between the three is taut with absolute playwright precision. Driven by passion and nerve, or perhaps idiocy of the innocent, they set off on this weekend journey that will greatly alter their lives; the viewer will be side by side for every encounter and feel every nuance of angst and occasional fortitude felt by the characters/actors.
What appears so liberating about Reichardt’s direction is that she allows and clearly encourages the actors to appreciate and grasp an eclectic sense of their time and space, their surrounding environment (or set if you will). The actors are wholly aware of the world they are living in, and thus its components (for example, objects, space) to counterbalance their characters emotions and expression. Consequently, the actor truly becomes one with the world they are living. For example, Reichardt will show Josh working alongside others who are more productive, or she will counterbalance Josh’s silence and reflection with active participants going about their morning affairs; the contrast between Josh’s deep thought and everyone else’s peace of mind couldn’t be more powerful. This is no new discovery for directors, or audiences alike, and these are largely subtleties, but Reichardt has dissected a truly powerful film when it may have otherwise been quite simply a tedious tale. In other words, Josh/Jesse is complemented by factors allowing him to magnify his intricacy of emotion.
There is no sense of urgency in the script; a single event must be explored in great detail for the film to work the way it does. Yet, a paradox is that the visual analogy is one of great urgency and this is made possible by the magical chemistry between the cast. And further still, within this straight-lined exploration lie indefinite truths; each character has a dark shadow and at times it is up for the audience to decide for themselves (did that actually happen?). Cinema can show things, but rarely can it make up your mind for you; such is the truth of well-directed pictures.
It may not satisfy everyone’s attention for fast-cut action, but it will never suggest such a method and neither will it attempt to expand on any sub-plot. This is not a derogative, you could argue the film supersedes any need for it, the imagination can replace such need: it knows what action may avail, it can picture the prevailing action and it can design a feeling of compelling either way. The mind is key.