Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The East Review

In Zal Batmanglij's tense political thriller, Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) a former FBI agent, begins a new career at an intelligence firm that specializes in the protection of privileged corporate clientele. Her new boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) sets an assignment which sees Sarah infiltrating deep within a mysterious eco-terrorist group under the guise of a false identity as they wage war against the very corporations her company aims to protect.

Firstly, I enjoyed this film far more than I thought I would. Having initially being drawn by the trailer, I was also interested to see Ellen Page in this, as I feel like she really shines in this kind of genre and seems to have a knack for choosing roles in films that leave you thinking, and in my opinion, The East is without a doubt, one of those films.

The intrusive nature of the opening particularly stood out to me as it gives the film a rough edge which has a jarring effect when juxtaposed against what follows, almost as though The East themselves managed to invade the film during the editing process to insert their cautionary message. In this message they state their wish to see 'all those who are guilty to experience the terror of their crimes', and make it possible by 
using their 'eye for an eye' philosophy. 

The East formulate what they call 'jams', essentially advances in which they carry out their recompense for the dishonest falsity of various pharmaceutical companies and energy providers. As Sarah becomes more and more integrated into the group circle, both she and the audience are allowed to witness the moral doubts and conflicts in opinion that begin to reveal themselves within this group of idealists. 

The film itself oozes with moral ambiguity, and follows through with an equally twisty and unpredictable plot carried by stellar performances, notably from Ellen Page who definitely did not disappoint as passionate group member Izzy who manages to come across as both strong and intimidating, whilst the character development also allows for some emotional reasoning that somewhat helps justify her otherwise brutal decisions. Also worth mentioning is Brit Marling in the lead role of the morally conflicted Sarah, who's adaptable fa├žades are put to the test as her assignment forces her to question and come to terms with where her loyalties truly lie. 

Despite a slightly unsatisfying ending to what was otherwise a consistently gripping thriller, the East will stand out to me as one of this year's better summer films, even though I feel like it will get easily lost under the hype surrounding this year's big summer blockbusters. The East has it's flaws, though it might still manage to be one of my favourite films I've seen this year along with Trance to name another. I definitely think its one to watch, especially if you're a fan of the genre, though overall it makes for an intelligent and thought-provoking film.