The East: A tale of mystery, complicated morality

Daniel Woodhouse

Indie films provide a breathe of fresh air from the more generic Hollywood blockbusters, but they can be a bit pretentious.

In The East, a former FBI agent, Sarah Moss, is working undercover in an “eco-terrorist” group, called The East, for a private intelligence contractor. As Sarah infiltrates the group, she begins to find these “terrorists” are not what she’s been lead to believe. Over the course of the film she begins to learn and even sympathize for them. However, things take a turn when she endangers her mission by falling for the group’s leader Ben.

Director Zal Batmanglij does an excellent job of creating tension and suspense during the scenes where the group is carrying out their attacks, which are clever and ironic. One particularly intriguing scene is when the group spikes the drinks of an entire party of pharmaceutical executives with their own faulty antibiotics. As the group’s motto goes “Poison us, we’ll poison you.”

The line between right and wrong becomes indistinguishable in the indie thriller, The East.

Brit Marling pulls off double duty as both the writer and leading lady. Marling has created a script with a deep focus on characterization that not only gives dimension to environmentalists, but also humanizes the corporate executives the group is targeting. The movie’s villain ends up being Moss’ boss Sharon portrayed by Patricia Clarkson, who seems to care more about keeping her client big and her checkbook thick, than worrying about seeing justice done.

The film raises questions about environmentalism versus consumerism, and gives perspective to the practice of freeganism, or as it’s more commonly known “bum life.”

Brit Marling, Alex Skarsgard and Ellen Page are The East’s heavy hitters, and they provide the best performances. A notable mention is Toby Kebbell, who plays an interesting character with a sad story of how he’s slowly dying of brain damage, as a result of a faulty antibiotic. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, but their characters are there to fill the rest of the spots in the group.

All in all, The East is intriguing and thought provoking, combined with some good-old suspense.

 

5 out 5 stars