Dakota Fanning and Jesse Eisenberg shine in a thriller that combines cinematic lyricism with an astute exploration of radical environmentalism.
Kelly Reichardt follows Meek’s Cutoff, her elegiac re-visioning of the American Western, with another compelling and inventive take on genre form. In this taut political thriller, radical environmentalist Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and society drop-out Dena (Dakota Fanning) drive halfway across Oregon and meet with ex-marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) to execute their meticulously planned act of eco-terrorism. Following their clandestine operation, they separate and resume their regular lives, but the media frenzy that follows reveals the unintended consequences of their actions. Josh, who lives and works on a communal organic farm, becomes increasingly paranoid, worried that the intensity of Dena’s emotional response to the situation will expose them. Reichardt’s cinematic lyricism is always laced with astute observation about politics, gender and class. In this urgent and absorbing film she amplifies the political, making it central to the narrative thrust, but she remains just as interested in the interiority of her characters. The intended outcome of their enterprise is never illuminated or examined. The focus is on why each individual took action and how their original motivation effects their reaction when things go wrong. The film’s stealthy, provocative central question then becomes: what ignites protest and is it ever truly selfless?
American landscapes and narratives of the road are themes that run throughout Reichardt Kelly’s five feature films: River of Grass (Strand Releasing, 1994), Old Joy (Kino International, 2006), Wendy and Lucy (Oscilloscope Pictures, 2008), Meek’s Cutoff (Oscilloscope Pictures, 2010) and Night Moves (2013); and the short narrative Ode (1999). Grants: United States Artists Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Anonymous Was A Woman Award, Renew Media Fellowship. Screenings: Whitney Biennial (2012), Film Forum, Cannes Film Festival in Un Certain Regard, Venice International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, BFI London Film Festival. Retrospectives: Anthology Film Archives, Pacific Film Archive, Museum of the Moving Image, Walker Art Center, American Cinematheque Los Angeles. She has taught at the School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, New York University and is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Bard College.
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