The East (2013)
Deftly paced, emotionally gripping, and psychologically advancing. “The East” is a socio-political thriller that never mistakes revenge for a lack of heart. Piling on the tension to an almost unbearable extent and performed with graceful precision and a relentless thirst for justice. Co-writers Brit Marling and Zat Batmanglij have once again created a taut character-study oozing with conscientious-awareness and founded upon eco-friendly tendencies. While parts of “The East” may feel somewhat like a retread of the duo’s previous effort “The Sound of my Voice,” any correlation between the two is soon disparaged. Yes, it may deal with similar themes such as infiltration, self-realization, and influence. Nonetheless, “The East” is Marling and Batmanglij’s most complete offering to date and sees their potential continue its rise to an even brighter future.
Sarah moss (Marling), a former FBI agent, is a high-level operative for the private intelligence firm Hiller-Brood. She is commissioned to infiltrate a terrorist organization called The East and report back with the groups next targets. Upon gaining the trust of the charismatic leader Benji (Skarsgard) and next in command Izzy (Page), Sarah begins to unveil intel to her boss. As time passes, Sarah becomes infatuated with the group’s members and ideals.
The first few moments of “The East” strike a strong note of consciousness that resonates throughout the entire film and never disperses or weakens. It is followed with wave upon wave of allegory that inflicts an ocean of inward assessment regarding environmental duty and industrial intoxication. It may leave a bitter taste with its blatancy, unorthodox approach, and alarming nature. Nevertheless, it is a controversial wake-up call that is extremely difficult to look away from. Ultimately, “The East” isn’t easily dismissed upon completion. It acts much like a splinter, stinging and constantly drawing your attention and ire until it is dealt with. I’m not implying that it will force you to drop sanity and necessity to go and save the world. Yet, it will enlighten your point of view and illuminate these troubling matters at hand so one day we can make better, more informed decisions about the planet, and more importantly, our future.
Amongst these immense matters, it would be easy to lose sight of the human element. After all, the safety of our environment directly affects our longevity and its security. It might seem a bit selfish, but the concern about our habitat is based in majority on our dominance of this planet. Amazingly, Marling and Batmanglij have managed to bottle these enormously important topics and infused them with our heart and soul. What good would the preservation of Earth be if we weren’t around to enjoy it? While we are treated to an abundance of vantage points, each one is unique and connects with different people on vastly different levels. Which, evidently makes “The East” an outstanding experience for all involved, cast, crew, and audience.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about “The East” is its dissection of every facet that compiles our existence. It doesn’t solely focus on saving and bettering our planet. It tackles industry, poverty, indifference, humanity, etc… Everything is entangled and attached in this metaphorical web and each aspect is torn down until its roots are bare. There are a lot of wrongs that need to be righted in our current state and awareness is a huge step that seemingly the majority of us are afraid or unwilling to take. I’m not trying to preach as I am just as clueless and motionless as the next when it comes to eco-preservation. It is simply gratifying to know that some are taking the initiative to better our world. It might sound cliche or corny, nonetheless, it is something that needs to be dealt with in order to fortify our existence and evolution.
I think that is enough of a disembowelment towards our humanity, existence, and the film itself in general. I’ll move on to the technical aspects of the film and its performances. “The East” stars the aforementioned Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, and Ellen Page. The biggest surprise, well, at least for me anyway, was Alexander Skarsgard’s performance, he easily dominated the entire film. Page and Marling were also incredibly impressive, but not on the same scale. Possibly because I expected them to be terrific and I had no idea what to expect from Skarsgard. Considering the significance of the film, overshadowing the star-power was a concern entering the theatre. However, this turned out to be a wasted worry as the cast, in its entirety, matched the story’s intensity, subtlety, and brilliance. As for Zat Batmanglij, he continues to perfect his craft as “The East” holds, without question his best work from behind the camera.
Tremendously acted, superbly filmed, and just impeccably solid all the way through. “The East” is an immaculate depiction of our society, its flaws, and how we can ultimately correct them.
The East: 8.5 out of 10.