Admittedly, the environmental message of Night Moves can feel a bit heavy-handed, which threatens to derail the film for the casual viewer. Message-driven, polemical films rarely succeed as works of art, too. But hold up before jerking your knees: this is not an environmentalist movie. Or if it is, that's a tertiary theme at best. The crux comes after the dam has been blown up, and the unintended consequences have snuck in. "There's nothing natural about this," Dena says to Josh.
In a sense, she's right. What's happened hasn't helped advance their cause. Rather, it's set it back—not just because of what happens afterward, but because the three of them are wracked with guilt, Dena breaking out in hives, Josh (already seemingly socially handicapped) rendered unable to operate normally. They think they're brave, but they discover it's just bravado.
On the other hand, what happens to them is exactly natural, and that's the point of the bomb, if there is one. Night Moves calls us (inadvertently or not) to reconsider our definition of what's "natural." Certainly, some of the ways we've failed to care for the planet as we were charged back at the beginning have had dire consequences. Let's not ignore that.
But there's another way you can take this idea—1 Corinthians 2:14 gives us something to chew on: "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." There are consequences to our actions, and often they're unintended; we should be very careful before we make choices to destroy cultural artifacts (like dams, for instance, but a whole lot more, like traditions and artwork and books and ideas), believing ourselves to be saviors of mankind.
The wrong things we do can leave us dislocated, lost in a big world, all our connections dissolved. The wages of sin are death—and sometimes that means more than we expect.
There is some bad language, including f-bombs. We hear two characters (presumably) having sex, but from outside a trailer. There's a little beer drinking. Nobody gets hurt onscreen, but there's several deaths, one of which may be disturbing. In a scene at the beginning, we see a number of fully-nude women at the spa—it's non-sexual, but not brief.
Alissa Wilkinson is chief film critic at Christianity Today and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She tweets @alissamarie.