THRILLER; 1hr 52min
STARRING: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard
Shake and stir: Fanning and Eisenberg
A sense of doom settles like an evening hush over the shadowy cadence of director Kelly Reichardt’s expressive What If. Organic farmhand Josh (a hermit-crabby Eisenberg, 180 degrees removed from his speed-dialled The Social Network self), cynical rebel Dena (Fanning) and their dodgy ex marine leader, Harmon (Sarsgaard), are diverse eco-activists bound by a high-risk purpose. Their plan is to register their outrage at the environmental fallout from an Oregon hydroelectric dam by blowing the bejesus out of it. Night Moves is the name of their motor boat (along with director Arthur Penn’s 1975 noirish thriller and Bob Seger’s anthemic song).
With pared-down dialogue, the three get ready in an atmosphere of paradoxically Zen-like calm. They’re cockily convinced of their moral rightness. But radical acts are potentially ruinous and the pall of suspense that deepens over this cautionary story is loaded with uncertainty and regret. In attempting to move progressive mountains, Josh and Dena, in particular, have boxed themselves in. The naïfs they once were no longer exist and there can be no going back.