Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th September 1975
Distributed by: WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES
Production compaines: RT Features, Maybach Film Productions, Film Science, Tipping Point Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 14 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Producer: Saemi Kim, Neil Kopp, Chris Maybach, Anish Savjani, Anish Savjani, Rodrigo Teixeira
Screenwriter: Kelly Reichardt, Jon Raymond
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg as Josh Stamos, Dakota Fanning as Dena Brauer, Alia Shawkat as Surprise, Peter Sarsgaard as Harmon, Katherine Waterston as Anne, James LeGros as Feed Factory Clerk, Griffin Newman as Middle Manager
This may be a slow-burning thriller about eco-terrorists, but it's also directed by Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff), a filmmaker who maintains an oddly aloof perspective while moving at her own steady pace. While this original approach offers fresh insight into the subject matter, it also creates a distance with the audience. But the subtle tone and complex morality add a strong resonance to the subject matter.
It's set in the rural American Northwest, where organic farmer Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) is collaborating with zen-retreat worker Dena (Dakota Fanning) and ex-military loose cannon Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) to plan a bombing that will make people stop and think about what humanity is doing to the planet. Their target is a dam in Oregon that provides hydroelectric power, and their rationale is that no one needs to run their iPods 24 hours a day. After painstakingly setting up their subtle but devastating attack, they neglect to consider one possible outcome. And what follows forces them to re-examine their actions and motivations. It also causes a rift in their camaraderie that makes the outside threat feel even greater.
Despite the intense plot, this is definitely not an action movie, as Reichardt traces these three people's careful plan in sharp detail while quietly exploring the big issues that compel them to act. Oddly, these activist-terrorists seem oblivious that their violent plan is unlikely to make any difference in the grand scheme of things, and that very few people will ever understand their point. But they're such true believers that they simply can't see outside their circle. The acting is subdued and bracingly honest, creating complicated characters who say more without dialogue than with it. Sarsgaard has the most intriguing role, since Harmon has an undercurrent of menace that the others can't help but notice. And Reichardt lets the actors carry the scenes, using their expressive faces to fill in the details of the plot.
Of course the film's audience won't fail to understand the importance of living more simply, caring for the planet and guarding limited resources. The sustainable houses and organic farms depicted in the film offer a clear connection with humanity and the environment, urging thoughtful consideration of how much respect we have for our planet. But since everything is so achingly slow and hypnotic, with only gurgling suspense where some real nail-biting excitement was needed, the film is essentially preaching to the choir: audiences interested in ponderous topical dramas. Because even though it's darkly realistic, the nonbelievers won't have patience for such an internalised kind of thriller.