"It'll all go fast in the end. Once the marine biodiversity goes, everything goes with it."
I was unfamiliar with Kelly Reichardt until Night Moves, but I had heard several great things from her direction in Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy. Night Moves has also received many praises from critics so I really don't know how I will feel about her other films because this one was a disappointment for me. Perhaps I don't get her style of filmmaking but the entire film felt tedious and there wasn't any tension. For a movie that is centered on a character driven plot I really didn't feel like I learned much about these three radical environmentalists. What motivates them to take these extreme measures? All we know is that they are environmentalists, but I didn't feel like they had any distinct trait. The pacing of this film was really slow and at times I felt like abandoning it, but I continued to watch in hopes that the plot got better. After all, Hollywood Report compared it to the the suspenseful Hitchcock films of the 50's. The final third act of the film was the worst considering some of the decisions made felt completely out of character. Night Moves lacked soul and purpose, I really never managed to get into it despite how much I liked the cast. It was a numbing experience for me and no matter how gorgeous the Oregon landscape was, I simply never bought into the story. Reichardt loves to use steady shots and let the action unfold in front of us, but they were as tedious as the the slow pacing of the film. Nature might be captured beautifully in Night Moves, but the characters' motivations were really hard to believe at times. I tend to enjoy low key films, but for a character driven one I really didn't see much development going on. Yes, Eisenberg's character is alienated, Fanning's is strong willed, and Sarsgaard's is the most adventurous, but other than that we don't get much from their restrained performances. I might be on the minority here so I will give Reichardt another chance and check out one of her previous films to see if I enjoy it better than Night Moves.
I wouldn't have a problem with a slow burner like Night Moves if the final result was a rewarding experience, but the third act is even less engaging than the previous ones. I can't simply enjoy a film because it's restrained and it's nice to look at. Sure some of the steady long shots looked cool, but after a while it too becomes tedious as the characters in this film. Eisenberg received a lot of praise for his performance here, although I really never bought into his character's motivations. The strongest performance for me came from Peter Sarsgaard who was much more believable and understandable. Dakota Fanning had some interesting scenes as well, but I still had a hard time getting engaged with their characters. Comparisons with The East were almost inevitable for me considering the theme of this film, but somehow I didn't enjoy this as much as Batmanglij's film. That film despite having several flaws managed to maintain the tension throughout most of its running time unlike what I felt with Night Moves which simply failed to deliver suspense or any real drama.