January 10, 2015 -- Three environmental activists blow up a large hydroelectric dam in Oregon thinking nobody will get hurt, but somebody dies, which leads to more tragedy in this politically incorrect, but realistic movie about good intentions and bad consequences.
An old friend of mine, a rabid environmentalist, used to talk about these kinds of actions, blowing up bridges, etc. but he was never foolish enough to actually do this kind of thing. His idea of dealing with global warming was “not in my backyard” combined with wishful thinking. Some extremists, however, do go so far as to engage in violent actions. This is a story about what might happen if some people blew up a dam.
Two environmental activists, Josh and Dena (Jesse Eisenberg of “Now You See Me” and Dakota Fanning of “War of the Worlds”) attend an environmental film screening at which the director says there isn't one “big thing” to do to save the world, but “lots of little things.” Josh and Dena, along with their friend, Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard of “Green Lantern”) have a large little thing planned. They plan to blow up the Green Peter Dam in Oregon.
The idea is to blow up the dam in the winter, when there isn't much recreational use along the Middle Santiam River. The three activists think they can blow up a dam with no casualties. This makes no sense to me, but they like this plan. They buy a boat and pack it with explosives made from ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil. Harmon, an ex-Marine, has experience with explosives.
The plan is to tie the boat to the dam, set a timer and get away, using a canoe, before the explosion occurs. The plan works like a charm, but a camper near the river downstream is killed by the flood waters released by the explosion. Realistically, a lot more people probably would be killed by such an act of terrorism, but only one dies in this story.
Josh is taken down a notch the day after blowing up the dam by his employer's assessment of the act. Sean (Kai Lennox of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) says over breakfast, “They're idiots, that's all ... One dam, who cares? That river has 10 dams on it. The grid is everywhere. You need to take down, like 12 dams, 100 to make a difference. It doesn't do anything, and why, you want a nuke plant? Because that's your only other option when you get down to it ... It's a statement, right? I'm not interested in statements. I'm interested in results.”
Dena is devastated by the news of the death and Josh is bothered by it. Even though the three had agreed to keep this a secret and not to contact each other right after the destruction of the dam, Dena starts making phone calls to Harmon and others. Dena's calls result in Josh losing his job and his home. Harmon has no intention of going to prison for life and is not pleased with Dena's actions. Things go downhill from here.
Since I grew up in this part of Oregon, I was intrigued by the story, but this film has a much better grasp of the characters in the story than it does of Oregon geography. The actors in the story give very good performances. The story is fairly solid. It is a bit subdued and there are some logical holes in it, but on the whole it is a fairly realistic scenario. The best laid plans are often foiled because of human error, and that's what happens here. This film rates a C+.
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