Night Moves (Blu-ray Review)

Night MovesKelly Reichardt s suspense-thriller NIGHT MOVES is the story of three radical environmentalists coming together to execute the most intense protest of their lives: the explosion of a hydroelectric dam. Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard, The Killing) is a former Marine, radicalized by tours of duty overseas. His life in the military is behind him, but at heart he remains excited by the prospect of mayhem and destruction. Dena (Dakota Fanning, The Twilight Saga) is a high-society dropout who s moved west and cut ties with her family, edging ever deeper into radical politics. And Josh (Jesse Eisenberg, Social Network), their leader, is a self-made militant, devoted to the protection of the earth by any means necessary. As the three plan, carry out and then witness the fallout of their attention-grabbing act of sabotage, they find their own personal limits tested on a journey of doubt, paranoia and unintended consequences. 

Night Moves


Night Moves is the new film by director Kelly Reichardt who is well known in independent film circles. The story is about three anarchists who want to take their love for the environment to the ultimate level by destroying a hydroelectric dam. Dena (Dakota Fanning) is a former little rich girl who has severed her ties with her high societal family and discovered the exciting world of radical politics. Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) is a former U.S. marine aching for the thrill of battle (he may or may not be suffering from PTSD) and being an anarchist has its charm. Josh (Jessie Eisenberg) is the unofficial leader, who by day, works out of a business with his family selling and growing vegetables through a co-op. Josh also wants to save the environment by any mean necessary.

First off, Night Moves is awfully dreary, but the material is presented that way, so you will have to stick with it. It’s a slow burn of a film. The first part of the film is set up as an introduction of sorts to each of the characters. We see what Dena, Josh, and Harmon are up to and why they share these commonalities. Looking at the way it’s set up I have come to the conclusion that they’re “anarchists” due to boredom and their mundane lives. The stakes are not that high, in my opinion. We follow them around as they gather materials to build a bomb to set off at the dam, because the water being kept there “deserves to be free.”

Once the act happens, for them, it’s like coming down from the ultimate high. They chased the dragon and caught it. Now getting back to civilian life will be awkward, because hey, some of these kids actually have a conscious. It’s all fun and games until you blow up a dam! Night Moves is framed in a simple 3-act formula but it’s the first and last part of the film that sort of keeps the material in limbo. There’s not that much going on and being the silent observer (you, the viewer) is quite the stretch. On a technical level, that’s something else, because Night Moves is a great looking film and some of the filming locations are great.

I guess there needed to be a bit more action of any kind as opposed to endless brooding. It’s like when you’re talking to a friend and you ask them “what do you want to do now?” and they respond with “I don’t know what do you want to do now?” It feels like that throughout the film – annoying push pulling. I think apathy is the word I’m trying to find. Now just because the film has garnered a 2 1/2 star rating doesn’t mean that it’s unwatchable. Far from it. There are several intense scenes when we finally get moving and there are some fine performances by our lead actors and one of my favorite go-to men for quirky characters – James Le Gros. It was fun seeing him onscreen again.

Night Moves runs just under two hours. If you want to see a bunch of people who are in way over their heads then give it a shot – if you also want to see the gorgeous Pacific Northwest then you should give it a whirl. Personally, it could have been better.

Night Moves


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Night Moves is a dreary movie and it also looks a bit dreary in general. Dreary never looked so good in that case. The image is crystal sharp with only a hint of softness. Contrast is nicely balanced and the sharpness levels are kept in check.

Depth: There are many pretty vistas in what looks to be the Pacific Northwest and the Blu-ray captures them beautifully.

Black Levels: Night Moves isn’t just a clever name – a good majority of the film takes place at night and I am happy to report that crush and compression artifacts are not present.

Color Reproduction: The color palette shifts back and forth in terms of being bright and colorful. It’s colorful when there’s nice scenery to be shot then it gets sort of dull whenever it focuses on the characters at hand.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look as natural as they can. Considering our main protagonists are anarchists – they all seem a little pasty but I guess that’s intentional.

Noise/Artifacts: I only detected a spec or two.


Night Moves


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: This may be a low-key movie but the lossless soundtrack kicks in when it needs to and mainly subtle ways. Lots of chaos and anarchy happen off-screen but you’ll know it based on the sound effects used and how this lossless track uses them. It’s a very strong and subtle soundtrack indeed.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE bass channel is there to lend a helping hand and does a great job of enhancing certain scenes right on cue.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels handle ambience with ease.

Dialogue Reproduction: Night Moves is a dialogue driven film and the center channel, which handles dialogue, does so flawlessly.


Night Moves


There are no extras included on this Blu-ray except a theatrical trailer.

  • Theatrical Trailer (2:28, HD) – The theatrical trailer is presented in high definition.


Night Moves


You know, Night Moves, isn’t all that bad on the surface but to quote Ridley Scott, “it just needed a bit more rock ‘n roll” in order to be satisfying. The Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific until it drops the ball big time by not including any extras worthy of note. I would have loved an audio commentary by the director or some deleted scenes, etc. No, this is essentially a movie-only version. It’s worth a rental if you have some time.


Order Night Moves on Blu-ray!

Night Moves


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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