A sparse but chilling eco-thriller starring Jesse Eisenberg
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Dakota Fanning (Twilight) play a pair of idealistic eco-warriors in writer/director Kelly Reichardt’s tense, slow-burning thriller. Josh (Eisenberg) and Dena (Fanning) join forces with Peter Saarsgard’s Harmon, and the trio, fed up of hippy talk about changing the world slowly, plan to “save the salmon” by plotting to blow up a hydroelectric dam in a nature reserve in Oregon. The environmental terrorists hope to raise awareness and then disappear off the grid but they soon find that, just like Kermit the frog, it’s not easy being green.
The film’s title echoes the Gene Hackman 1975 noir film and is the name of the speedboat the trio pack with ammonium nitrate-based fertiliser to make a crude but deadly bomb. While the Machiavellian ex-Marine Harmon lurks off screen, Reichardt cleverly leaves the verdict on organic farmer Josh and trust fund revolutionary Dena open. Are they environmental heroes or vegan villains who can’t see the bigger picture? It’s the audience’s call.
Reichardt has said that the Pacific Northwest feels like the environmental front line and her documentary-style offers food for thought before the drama shifts gears. The structure of the film recalls the intense build of a creeping heist movie merged with the pause for thought stylings of an arthouse drama. The score by Jeff Grace delivers a dark mood with its synthesised chord swells as Josh and Dena face up to the harsh realities of their mission in a disturbing final act. Prepare to be gripped.