Night Moves (2013 film)

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Night Moves
Night moves poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Produced by Saemi Kim
Neil Kopp
Chris Maybach
Anish Savjani
Rodrigo Teixeira
Screenplay by Jonathan Raymond
Kelly Reichardt
Starring Jesse Eisenberg
Dakota Fanning
Peter Sarsgaard
Music by Jeff Grace
Cinematography Christopher Blauvelt
Edited by Kelly Reichardt
Maybach Film Productions
Film Science
Tipping Point Productions
RT Features
Distributed by Cinedigm
Release dates
  • August 31, 2013 (2013-08-31) (Venice)
  • September 8, 2013 (2013-09-08) (TIFF)
  • May 30, 2014 (2014-05-30)
Running time 113 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $788,160[2]

Night Moves is a 2013 American drama film directed by Kelly Reichardt and written by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat, and James LeGros, the film was shown in the main competition section of the 70th Venice International Film Festival[3][4] and at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[5] described the film as about "three radical environmentalists who come together to execute the most spectacular direct action event of their lives: the explosion of a hydroelectric dam."[6]


Josh, Dena, and Harmon plan on blowing up a dam, due to their radical environmental beliefs.

Josh and Dena buy a boat using Dena's money and they drive a long distance to meet up with Harmon, who will be building the bomb. Harmon initially says that he will take care of making sure that they have all of the ingredients, but eventually admits that he still does not have the quantity of fertilizer they need, saying that buying in large quantities would make people suspicious. Not wanting to waste more time, Dena goes to buy the remaining 500 pounds of fertilizer, however is unable to after she is asked to show her Social Security card. She is finally able to convince the store owner to sell her the product after she tells him that she is the niece of the local farmer who is the main source of vegetables and milk for the town.

Harmon, Josh, and Dena return to Harmon's and they begin to build the bomb. Though Harmon is skeptical of Dena, the two end up engaging in a sexual relationship. After the bomb is ready and loaded in the boat, Harmon gives Josh and Dena fake driver's licences. The three agree that after the explosion, they must all return to their normal lives and not contact each other ever again.

Josh and Dena attach the large boat to the back of Josh's truck and head towards the lake where the dam is, as Harmon follows behind in a different truck. The three pretend that they are a group of friends camping in the woods and keep away from fellow campers in order to not attract attention. In the middle of the night, the three board the boat carrying the bomb and head towards the dam. They are successful in activating the bomb and have 30 minutes to get back to shore and away from the camping ground. They leave the boat next to the dam and board a canoe that they had pulled along with them. When they are halfway to shore, however, they notice that there is a car along with several people next to the lake. Afraid that they will be seen, they stop in the middle of the lake, as the timer continues. They wait a few minutes to see if the people leave, but they don't. They return to the bomb, hoping that Harmon will be able to deactivate it - although he says that he will be able to, it quickly becomes clear that he does not know how. The car finally leaves and the three quickly go back to shore and run towards their truck. As the three are driving away, they hear the explosion go off in the distance.

When they return to camp, Harmon says goodbye to Josh and Dena, and drives away. Josh and Dena are stopped by the police who is checking everyone's identification. The Sheriff checks their ID and does a quick search of the truck and lets the two go without a problem.

Josh returns to the farm where he lives and works as a farmer. He grows nervous after he overhears other housemates talk about the explosion, particularly when they mention that there was a man who had been camping near the dam at the time of the explosion and is now missing. Days go by uneventfully, until one day Harmon calls Josh to tell him that Dena called him and is extremely worried about the situation. Concerned that she will go to the police, Josh agrees to go talk to her. He waits outside the massage and spa parlor where Dena works, and flashes his headlights at her as she is walking home. The two talk in Josh's truck, and Dena admits that she's feeling guilty over the missing man, even though Josh attempts to calm her down. It is revealed that she is so stressed out over the situation that she has developed a rash on her face and arms. Josh asks her if she's going to the police, and she admits that she's not sure. They continue arguing and Dena leaves.

Josh and Harmon talk on the phone again, and Harmon tells Josh that they need to make sure that Dena does not say anything, hinting that the only way to ensure this, is if she's dead. Josh is upset and expresses reluctance, and tells Harmon that he will see what he can do.

The other people living on the farm with Josh are uncomfortable and clearly suspect that he was involved with the explosion. The owner of the farm talks to Josh in private and tells him that he must leave, because he is involving everyone there by staying. Josh goes to the library where he looks up the missing man from the lake. He learns that the body was found, and the police suspect that the man drowned after he was unable to get away from the rising tide caused by the dam exploding.

Josh goes to Dena's workplace once again and sneaks inside as Dena is closing for the night. Dena sees him and asks him to leave. Josh attempts to talk to her, but Dena is clearly scared of him. She tries to leave, but he does not let her. They physically fight and Dena is able to leave the main office. Josh finds her in a nearby sauna, and after a brief struggle, he strangles her to death.

The next morning, Josh parks in a shopping center and calls Harmon in tears to tell him that he killed Dena. Josh asks Harmon if he wants to go away with him, but then agrees that they must never communicate again and must immediately go off the grid. Josh destroys his cellphone and gets rid of the pieces. He then enters a camping supplies store and asks for a job application.



Edward R. Pressman Film filed a lawsuit in September 2012, demanding that filming cease because of too many similarities to Edward Abbey's novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, planned to be adapted into an authorized film by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The lawsuit charged: "By way of example only, both works feature the targeting of a dam for destruction by means of ammonium fertilizer-laden boats. In the Novel, the principal bomb-maker is a beer-guzzling veteran who served overseas as a Green Beret, where he acquired his knowledge of explosives. The bomb-maker in Night Moves is a beer-guzzling veteran who served overseas as a U.S. Marine, where he acquired his knowledge of explosives. Both the Novel and Night Moves also feature a 20-something woman who starts out as a companion of another member of the group but develops a sexual relationship with the bomb-making veteran, despite his initial objections to her participation in the group's illegal activities."[7][8]


Night Moves received generally positive reviews, currently holding an 85% "certified fresh" rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 117 reviews; the consensus states: "A uniquely character-driven thriller with a finely composed cast and some outstanding direction from Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves bolsters its thought-provoking themes with compelling drama."[9] On Metacritic, based on 36 critics, the film has a 75/100 rating, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[10]


  1. ^ "NIGHT MOVES (15)". Soda Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. July 22, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Night Moves (2014) - International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Venezia 70". labiennale. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Venice film festival 2013: the full line-up". The Guardian (London). July 25, 2013. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "Toronto film festival 2013: the full line-up". The Guardian (London). July 23, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  6. ^ Fleming, Mike (September 9, 2012). "Toronto: Match Factory Selling Kelly Reichardt's Night Moves, With Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard". Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Gardner, Eriq (September 14, 2012). "Producer Launches Legal War Over New Eco-Terrorist Film Starring Jesse Eisenberg". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  8. ^ Patten, Dominic (September 15, 2012). "Night Moves Director, Producers, UTA Sued By Edward Pressman & Edward Abbey Widow For Copyright Infringement". Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Night Moves". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Night Moves Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 

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