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Night Moves

Kelly Reichardt isn’t from Oregon. The filmmaker was born in Florida and now lives in upstate New York. But despite her geographical remove, Reichardt has become the pre-eminent cinematic chronicler of this state. 2006’s Old Joy soaked in the thermal baths at Bagby, 2008’s Wendy and Lucy found Michelle Williams at a woebegone Walgreens in North Portland, and in 2011’s Meek’s Cutoff, a wagon train wandered through the desiccated high desert near Burns. In her new film, Night Moves, another assured drama that’s unapologetically Reichardtian—which means it’s deliberate, unobtrusive, formally careful and resolutely unromantic—we travel the farthest south yet, to the old-growth forests by Roseburg and the Siskiyou Mountains. Jesse Eisenberg, looking only slightly awkward in Carhartts and baseball cap, plays Josh, who works on a collective farm in the foothills of those mountains. (It’s a working farm owned by friends of Jon Raymond, Reichardt’s perennial screenwriting partner and flesh-and-blood Oregonian.) But growing organic cabbage isn’t enough for Josh, so he’s plotting to blow up a hydroelectric dam with two others, played by Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard. Reichardt has always been less interested in her characters’ root motivations than in how they handle themselves moment to moment, so Night Moves draws tension from the logistical minutiae of ecoterrorism. And throughout, the attention to setting is deeply satisfying, without devolving into unthinking romanticization of Cascadian splendor. The most pointed jab is a line from Josh about a new golf course in Bend that he decries as the latest outpost of the Portland empire, what with its $8 cups of gourmet coffee and taxidermy-lined walls. His words reflect what Reichardt herself has said about Oregon, especially Portland, being overrun and expensive. She sounds almost like a native.
  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Critic's Score: B
  • Watch the trailer

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