Movie review: “Night Moves” is an unusual thriller

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From the June 12, 2014 edition

In her new film “Night Moves,” director Kelly Reichardt (“Meek’s Cutoff”) creates a nontraditional thriller. More contemplative than pulse-pounding, it’s also well worth your time.

Three radical environmentalists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard) fed up with their movement’s inaction have decided to take matters into their own hands by blowing up an Oregon dam. “Killing all of the salmon,” one character intones, “Just so you can run your fucking iPod every second of your life.”

As the scope of their action starts to take shape, so do unexpected consequences.

“Night Moves” unfolds in a very esoteric manner — likely to be a turnoff if you’re expecting traditional thrills from your thriller — but Reichardt manages some real tension from the eco-terrorism plot, even if the dramatic peaks come a bit out of rhythm.

The disconnect of the characters’ demeanor and their actions is often chilling, particularly in the case of Sarsgaard — though I’m still waiting for a real breakout role from former child star Fanning, and this isn’t it.

But the real dramatic load is carried by Eisenberg. Some wrongly dismiss him as “that guy you confuse with Michael Cera,” but he’s shown real talent again and again. “Night Moves” is no exception.