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Vol 106 / Issue 29

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By Peter Rainer / Film critic "Night Moves" could be described as a thriller about ecoterrorism, but that wouldn't begin to convey its special qualities, its mysterious- ness. Kelly Reichardt, who also coscripted the film with her regular writing partner Jon Raymond, makes movies (such as "Wendy and Lucy") that are almost preternaturally attuned to the minutest atmo- spherics of drama. At a time when most filmmakers are concerned with how supercharged they can film things, she can capture the sheer grain of time's passage in a way that is practically Zen-like. At least on the surface, "Night Moves" is fairly straightforward. But there is nothing conventional about how Reichardt plays out her sce- nario. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) lives and works at a sustainable agricul- tural cooperative in southern Oregon. Profoundly disturbed by what he sees as the corporate desecration of the environment, he plans to blow up a nearby hydroelectric dam aided by Dena (Dakota Fanning), a college dropout who is bankrolling the operation, and Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), an ex-marine with an expertise in explosives. Their preparation for the night raid has a single-minded meticu- lousness, a sense of mission, that is also deeply deluded. For all their planning, they seem unaware of just how much can go wrong. They want to preserve nature, but it is nature – along with their own hubris – that conspires against them. For its first half, up through the bomb- ing, "Night Moves" has the steady-state tension of a good melodrama even as it goes way beyond that. The bombing itself, carried out in a hushed, nocturnal landscape that is both ominous and deeply beauti- ful, is a real nail-biter. Predictably, Reichardt doesn't actually show us the explosion; we hear instead a muffled boom in the background, as the three conspirators roll away from the scene of the crime. The film's second half, while it doesn't pay off in the same way as what led up to it and has some dramatically unconvincing conse- quences, is also its most original aspect. In the wake of the operation, the three conspirators separate and agree to break off communication with each other. But when a camper who was sleep - ing downstream from the dam is reported missing in the aftermath of the explosion, the full and terrible momentousness of their action is realized. Dena, who works in a secluded spa, becomes unwound, de- veloping a rash on her face that is like a visual emblem of her guilt and fear. Josh feels for her, but he also recognizes that she is the weak link in the chain. Harmon, who is both the scariest and the sharpest of the trio, thinks Dena must be silenced. Of the three, he possesses the least con- science. He is only troubled by the pros- pect of getting caught. Reichardt gets inside the psychology of these people, especially Josh, whose presence dominates the movie after the halfway point. Eisenberg is known for playing hyperkinetic fast-talking types, characters whose inner lives, such as they are, are all on the surface. In "Night Moves" he is required to play out much of the movie in a state of wary repose. Pensive, spooked, Josh comes apart before our eyes, but in slow motion. Eisenberg's performance has a creepy inwardness compared with Fanning's, which becomes (appropriately) fraught and bristly, or with Sarsgaard's coolly fine work, with its gradations of menace. Reichardt doesn't condone what these conspirators have done. I would guess that she shares their ecological concerns. But this is a movie about how idealism can go horribly wrong. One of Josh's co- workers, when he first hears about the dam explosion, is dismissive of this "act of theater." He sees it as a "statement," and thus all but useless. "Night Moves" may have a soft, almost dreamy feel, but at the core it's crucially hard-headed. In its own quiet way, in how it pulls together our utopian ideals and home-grown fears, it's the zeitgeist movie of the moment. r Rated R for some language and nudity. 'We Are the Best!' Lukas Moodysson's "We Are the Best!," set in Stockholm in 1982, is one of the funniest and happiest movies I've ever seen about early adolescent girls and their wayward, fitful joyousness. Based on a 2008 graphic novel by Moodysson's wife, Coco, that was inspired by her own teenage years as a punk-rock enthusiast, it's about three school- mates who, without knowing the first thing about how to do it, start a punk group. Bespectacled Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and her best friend, Klara (Mira Grosin), who has the requisite mohawk, recruit the taciturn, devoutly Christian Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), who actually knows how to play guitar. In one of the film's best moments, she calms down her warring band mates by having them repeat after her, "I like you. We like each other." Their punk career, such as it is, is hilariously off-key – which I guess means it's right on track. My favorite of their songs, composed in the wake of a hated, enforced basketball drill in gym class, is "Hate the Sport!" with its immortal lyric: "The world is a morgue, but you're watching Bjorn Borg!" r This film is not rated. on Film Idealism goes horribly wrong in 'Night Moves' Psychological drama keePs uP tension. Cinedigm Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) gets in over his head when he plots to blow up a hydroelectric dam. mOVieS + mUSiC + ART + TV + BOOKS THE MIX 38 the christian science monitor Weekly | June 9, 2014

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