You cannot, as the saying goes, make a profit off a dead planet, and the three radical environmentalists who are the key players in Night Moves intend to ensure the earth’s survival in any manner possible.
Directed and co-written by Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves revels in the trio’s low-key demeanor, their ease with silence and minimal social contact, and abbreviated, hushed-tone communications with each other. All the better to conceal the violence they advocate and subsequently execute to clue the country’s digitally obsessed citizenry into the menace of electronic power-guzzling. In other words, they believe eco-terrorism to be a necessary evil that often leads to a good ending.
Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), an organic farm hand who has previously worked with ex-military man Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) on these missions, has brought on Dena (Dakota Fanning), a wealthy young woman with a passion to preserve marine life.
The threesome’s specific goal is to blow up one of Oregon’s hydroelectric dams, and we witness the excruciatingly cautious steps leading up to execution. Dena’s cash helps buy a used boat – its name, visibly written, is the “Night Moves” of the title. And, in a highly suspenseful sequence, Dena coolly persuades a feed salesman (James Le Gros) to sell her nitrogen-based fertilizer for her veggie garden which, of course, will be used instead to create explosives.
The job does not go according to plan. In the aftermath, even Josh’s boss, the owner of the farm who’s oblivious to his employee’s side job, dismisses the ensuing dam explosion as nothing but “theater,” lacking a meaningful result. Things begin to go downhill, as the pre-defined, group-imposed boundaries among the perpetrators start to disintegrate, and as panic and even a case of hives set in.
Not surprisingly, the film, whose centerpiece is an intentionally violent act, is packed with heavy duty archetypes, including the Uranian revolutionary unafraid of mass upheavals, the Neptunian idealist whose motives are often fuzzed out and confused, and the Plutonian manipulator, control freak and transformer.
These patterns of behavior invariably involve the dismantling and destruction of structures so that new forms may emerge. Managing these archetypal energies – tough enough to deal with at the personal level – becomes even more challenging when applied to the collective, when the fates of groups and factions are directly affected.
“You said no one would get hurt,” says one of the characters, oblivious to these archetypes’ raw and brutish impersonality. Suddenly Saturnine guilt, not part of the original plan, rears its head.
The characters’ utter commitment to their collective cause impresses, but the smug certitude and even arrogance surrounding their mission invite hopes they get what’s coming to them. Night Moves is a clever and ultimately frightening balancing act.
Astrology Film Rating: ♅ ♆ ♇ (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)