Night Moves Film Analysis

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Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975) follows ex pro-football player turned private eye Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman), as he tries to unravel a case centered around a missing 16-year-old girl. The story constantly shifts between Moseby’s attempts to solve the case centered around Delly, the missing 16-year-old, and his attempts to keep his life, and sense of self from unravelling following the revelation of his wife’s affair. Night Moves is a prime example of neo-noir that is very self-aware of its classic noir film roots and uses its protagonists paranoia, and constantly crumbling sense of self to reflect a breakdown in confidence of a post-Watergate America. In a general sense Night Moves, almost blatantly at times, declares itself a neo noir …show more content…
The film opts for a more open ending to the case, focusing more on the character’s futile attempts to understand the much bigger plot at work. This is best exemplified in the final shot of the film, which serves as a summary of the whole case. Harry Moseby reaches for the lever on the boat to steer it in the right direction however he only serves to steer the boat in constant circles. As Moseby picks up more pieces of the puzzle in the case, he ends up rushing to conclusion and constantly blaming more and more people who he thinks are the guilty party. Some of these parties, like the mechanic Quentin (James Woods), are completely innocent but thanks to Moseby’s brash judgement end up in much worse shape. Moseby’s constant misidentification of character’s is reminiscent of another classic neo-noir figure, Jake Gittes. Both characters make several key misidentifications throughout their respected film. On the side of evidence, Gittes misses the pair of glasses in the koi pond where as Moseby fails to take proper note of the sunken plane. Both characters also jump the gun on accusing people as the guilty party. Gittes is unable to see the widow Evelyn as the victim she truly is rather than the murderer he beleves her to be. Moseby practically …show more content…
It is very aware of its neo-noir elements and very referential towards classic noir films. If there is any argument Night Moves is trying to make, it is that the classic noir detectives from the 1940s and 50s use dated methods that are ineffective in the more contemporary world of Night Moves. Like many detectives of classic film noir, Harry Moseby has an intimidating demeanor, and forceful way of speaking, yet somehow he still fails to take control of a situation. The best example of this is when Moseby confronts the crippled man his wife is having an affair with. Moseby leads on that he knows what’s going on expecting the man to break down and admit to his guilt, instead the man goes on the offensive, pressing Moseby about his personal life. The man even goes as far as to taunt Moseby when grabbed saying “Come on Harry, take a swing at me like Sam Spade would.” The methods of Humphrey Bogart’s classic character are shown to be ineffective against a man half the detective’s size and walking with a limp. This disrespect for the role of the detective can be seen by many of the characters in the film. Paula especially, seems to constantly belittle Moseby for his attempts to play the detective. As Moseby tries to get information out of Paula she attacks back saying “Do you ask these questions because you want to know the answer or is it just something you

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