Thursday, November 7, 2013

The East (2013)

Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, and Patricia Clarkson

Director: Zal Batmanglij

Synopsis: Brit Marling stars as Jane, an undercover operative agent for a private intelligence firm, who is assigned to infiltrate an anarchist group known as the East. The more Jane associates with the group, however, her motivations being to change as she befriends them and develops romantic feelings for the group’s alluring leader, Benji.

Reviewer’s Rating: 4/5 reels


Director Zal Batmanglij co-wrote The East with star Brit Marling, basing the film on inspirations of crime thriller films and their own experience with freeganism, the practice of eating food that has been discarded in trash bins.

Brit plays former FBI agent Jane Owens, who is assigned by Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), the head of Hiller Brood, to become part of a covert, anarchist group called the East. The East is known to combat eco-terrorism by targeting corporations they understand to be perpetrators of such offenses. Going by the name Sarah Moss, Jane is able to connect to members of the East and develops a fondness for Benji, the group’s sensitive yet enthralling leader, played by Alexander Skargard. Benji and the rest of the group (Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, and Shiloh Fernandez) perform “jams,” or missions, in which they vigilantly perform justice. 

Batmanglij excellently propelled the story forward, establishing Jane’s moral and law-abiding character initially so that a clear character arch is depicted from start to finish. There were moments when the pace picked up quickly, allowing the adrenaline rush to kick in before moving on to the next act. Marling’s performance was fantastic. She understood her character and portrayed her insecurities, moral questionings, and internal conflicts in a way that was understood. The rest of the cast—Skarsgard, Page, and Clarkson—also gave powerful performances, fulfilling strong supporting roles.

Even though the film addresses political and ethical issues in regards to waste and the environment, it did not come across as explicitly biased. Batmanglij and Marling wrote a thought provoking story, allowing room for the reader to examine the way they waste or how they can be better stewards of the earth.

The East is very entertaining, but it is a film in which the viewer needs to pay attention in order to not miss key plot points. Overall, the film had a nice pace up until the latter half, in which it lost some steam. However, even with the minor setbacks, The East was engaging, clever, and different—a crime thriller that can be certainly appreciated for its originality.

By Sofia Tongson

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