In Meek’s Cutoff, Kelly Reichardt took the Western and removed all the artificial thrills from it. Instead of a fast-paced horse chase resulting in a broken wagon axle, Reichardt took the time to show us just how that wagon axle got made. It’s an excruciatingly long process of carving down an existing piece of wood. In her new film, that attention to process is aimed towards something with more weight, the plan to bomb a hydroelectric dam. Given the stakes of this plan, Night Moves ends up being more suspenseful than her previous effort, as we watch a trio of eco-terrorists create an explosive device out of a boat and some fertilizer.
Set amongst the organic co-ops of Oregon, one of the conspirators has the courage of his beliefs (Jesse Eisenberg), another one is a naÃ¯ve daughter of wealthy parents (Dakota Fanning), while the other might be looking for an excuse to commit crimes (Peter Sarsgaard). By the second half of the film, the plot begins to move in a fairly predictable direction, but Reichardt’s style keeps things taught and suspenseful. Although Meek’s Cutoff is an intentionally oblique movie, Night Moves reveals a more accessible side of Reichardt’s style. It’s still slow and patient, but she proves excellent at building tension.
Night Moves premiered on Sunday, but you catch one more screening at the Bloor Hot Docs Theatre on Sunday at 9:00pm.
Alan Jones writes about film for Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @alanjonesxxxv.