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Originally published Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 3:15 PM

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3 environmentalists bound by crime in ‘Night Moves’

A three-star review of “Night Moves,” the mesmerizingly dreadful story of a plot to blow up a damn.


Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review ★★★  

‘Night Moves,’ with Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard. Directed by Kelly Reichardt, from a screenplay by Reichardt and Jon Raymond. 112 minutes. Rated R for some language and nudity. Meridian, Sundance.

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Filmed in Southern Oregon, Kelly Reichardt’s moody thriller “Night Moves” is like a slow, meticulous heist movie, almost hypnotic in its precision. Three environmentalists — organic farmer Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), former society girl Dena (Dakota Fanning) and troubled ex-Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) — plot to blow up a local dam, and we watch each step of the planning, the crime and the aftermath. The three characters form an awkward triangle — bound together by their crime, yet each isolated from the others.

At times, the pace seems almost too glacial, but Reichardt (whose previous movies include “Old Joy” and “Wendy and Lucy”) has an uncanny way of finding dread in a distant sound, a pair of headlights in the dark, a silent look of guilt. There’s much that these characters don’t tell us, leaving the actors to fill in the empty spaces — and they do so, particularly Fanning, whose voice is reminiscent of a sleepy Drew Barrymore here, and Eisenberg, who turns in another mesmerizing variant on his neurotic-guy-in-a-hoodie persona. (Josh, a sullen cipher, is wound so tight you fear he may snap.) Reichardt doesn’t judge these people, but doesn’t let them off the hook either.

Things get a little muddled by the film’s third act — it’s hard to believe that these three wouldn’t have expected any trouble — but the film haunts you all the same; it ticks along like a deliberate clock, inexorably counting down.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com



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