Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have done it again. The duo have written another riveting screenplay (after last year’s Sound of My Voice) with The East and with Batmanglij in the director’s chair and Marling starring again, they have doubled down on a thriller based in a world that lives in the shadows.
Where Sound of My Voice followed a cult-like world that may or may not be led by an alien, The East chronicles the efforts of an eco-terrorist group who follow through on their missions with cult-like vive. The world’s richest corporations are profiting on the peril of our planet and the group — called The East — believes that those who led these companies should pay in kind. Allow an oil spill on your watch Mr. Oil Executive — we’ll pour oil through the vents of your house making it inhabitable.
As we learn in The East trailer, Marling works for a wealthy consulting group who recruits former spies and FBI agents to perform espionage for those “evil” corporations. Her first assignment, given to her by her boss — the ever awesome Patricia Clarkson — is to infiltrate The East by any means possible.
Even with a loving boyfriend at home, she must do her job and disappear into the wilderness, for however long it takes, to find The East and bring them to justice.
The Marling-Batmanglij tandem brings on a few newcomers and their contributions to their cinematic world are immense. Ellen Page (X-Men movies) and Alexander Skarsgard (most recently in Disconnect) star as a highly vocal member of the group and their leader, respectively.
After Batmanglij shows the audience images of nature scarred by greed, it is quite easy to commiserate with The East and in the hands of Page and Skarsgard, that much easier. Both actors sear in their portrayals and embody the feelings the audience possesses after witnessing such eco-horror. Yet, and this is a question that will be debated long after the credits roll, is their methods “right?”
Movies such as The East are not meant to present sides of an issue as black and white. Through Marling’s character we can see how one can personally identify with The East, even if their form of justice is quite illegal. It is a debate that rages in our society currently, with no end in sight. And don’t look for The East to provide any answers. If anything, the debate only gets as murky and thick as an oil spill.
Our The East review cannot recommend this film enough. Marling is a force of nature and it is a delight to see her shine her talent on the natural world and what we as a species are doing to it.