Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page
“The East” stars indie sensation Brit Marling as a highly trained corporate security agent who infiltrates a group of eco-terrorists. It’s a surprising role for the unique talent, who specializes in affecting an aura of thoughtfulness, not physicality.
We’ve seen this basic premise many times before. But Marling brings an ethereal vibe to the flick, which she co-scripted with director Zal Batmanglij, that keeps it squarely lodged in an unfamiliar place.
Marling’s Sarah is assigned to embed herself in The East, a collective of young radicals committed to the destruction of giant corporate entities ranging from pharmaceutical bigs to oil industry heavies.
Once enmeshed in the group alongside idealistic radicals Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), Izzy (Ellen Page) and others, Sarah starts to question her strongly held moral code.
That journey of self-discovery is enhanced by the film’s garbage-chic look, which reflects the central principle that there’s beauty in waste. Fog surrounds the collective’s forested hideaway, a once lavish home with crumbling interiors.
Inside, the movie presents three-dimensional characters that are appealing and deeply human even as they employ questionable tactics.
“The East” follows a predictable path in charting Sarah’s reconfiguring of her priorities. But it’s impressively made, with tense, old-fashioned setpieces and an eye for moral complications.