Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, James Le Gros, Matt Malloy
Just last year, audiences were treated to an impressive thriller set in the world of eco-terrorists in Zal Batmanglij's The East. Now we have another look at this murky milieu, but seen through an entirely different lens. Where Batmanglij's film was very much a genre piece, drawing heavily on Hitchcock's Notorious, Kelly Reichardt's approach is stripped down and raw, doing here for the thriller genre what she did for the western with her 2010 film Meek's Cutoff.
Eisenberg is Josh, a moapy young man who works at a community assistance farm. Together with Dena (Fanning) and the older Harmon (Sarsgaard), the trio put into motion a plot to destroy a dam. It's a plan that's well thought out in its execution, but just what they hope to gain from it is never quite clear, apart from receiving attention for their cause.
Reichardt removes all the usual tropes of the suspense thriller, and the result is a film that will test the patience of many a viewer. Stick with it though and you'll find it's an effective character drama, with a trio of cracking central performances. For this reviewer, however, there were a few too many loose threads left hanging for the sake of it, and none of the central characters earn enough sympathy for us to really care about their plights.
Reichardt's movie has found itself the subject of a lawsuit, thanks to some remarkable similarities to the plot of The Monkey Wrench Gang, a novel by author Edward Abbey. That novel is itself set to be adapted by the creators of Catfish, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. If they can fix the issues at play here, that movie could be a very effective thriller.
By Eric Hillis