The East (2013)

Can’t trust those Occupiers! You never know if one of them just so happens to be a vampire.

A secret informant, Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) who works for a group of private companies trying to protect their image and sales, is assigned her latest task: which is to go undercover, and become one of the members of the extremist group known as “The East”. They are lead by a charming, yet inspired leader (Alexander Skarsgård), and thrive on showing all of these companies for what they are. However, Sarah knows what needs to be done and will not stop at anything, until she stops this group from completing their final “jams”. But that’s easier said then done, especially when love and morals come into play, which is exactly what hits Sarah clear in the face.

Here’s one of those movies that seems like it could literally be happening right now, right from underneath our noses, but we would never know about it. Why? Well, that’s because there’s some form of rebellion going on everywhere in our world and it would be almost no surprise to me after awhile if the government starting cracking down on some of these groups/organizations, for causing what they consider “acts of terrorism”. Whether or not I actually believe in that, will be totally left up for you to make up your mind’s own, but that also means that a movie like this has it’s homework done already for itself. All it has to do is tell it’s story, gives us it’s characters, and give us it’s reasons, and not fuck up.

Somehow, the movie couldn’t hold up it’s end of the bargain.

God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she's getting taken into. Because you know, she'd totally be able to identify them.
God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she’s getting taken into. Because you know, she’d totally be able to identify them.

But, that being said, the movie still does start off pretty damn well if I don’t say so myself. What director Zal Batmanglij (good thing I’m typing that, and not saying that) does well is that he gets us involved with the story right off the bat, by showing us what these extremists are all about. They’re a bit inhumane, but, they also show what they are doing for a reason so maybe, just maybe there is more to them then just simple, old-school rebellion. And there is, but Batmanglij still likes to keep us wondering where this story is going to go next, and what areas of it’s message is it going to focus on.

There’s plenty of humanity to be found within these activists, but what really makes them work as a whole is that the causes that they are fighting for, feel honest and not a bit for show. They really do feel like their environment is being cheated out of a system that’s mean-spirited, corrupt, and impure to the rest of the world that surrounds them. When any movie tries to tackle a subject like this, I get terribly annoyed as it just comes off as a piece of “preaching, in the form of a movie”, but this movie handles it well because it shows both sides of the coin very well, with enough attention and care to what the one side, says to the other, and vice versa.

The idea that these activists are torturing and doing harm to these corporate big-heads for the same type of shit that they accuse them of doing, does get brought up many times and you have to wonder: who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, the activists have a reason to be mad and you can see why they would want to put an end to the pain and suffering that is being caused, but is their way, the right way? Or, is it simply the only way to get shit done?

The movie continues to rattle that question around, almost as much as you’ll be doing the same in your head, and it’s only made better by the fact that the movie feels like it could go anywhere, at anytime, with just about any character. Everybody gets their chance to show what they really mean to the group, and who they really are underneath all of the anger and rebellion, which makes it enough for us to at least care about what it is that they decide to pull off next, and whether or not they will come out alive or unpunished for their ways. Brit Marling has this certain feel to her as an actress that makes her almost feel like she’s up in the sky with the birds and pretty clouds, but here, she feel like she’s brought back down to Earth where she can at least get done, whatever she is told to, and lets up for no one. Obviously, she gets wrapped up into all of the hum-drum of these activists and see why their way is sometimes the better way, but it feels more realistic and believable with Marling in the role, rather than some other cute, air-head that could have made the character barely passable to watch.

Playing the leader of the group she’s over-watching, is the incredibly-tall Alexander Skarsgård as Benji, the world’s least-intimating male name. Skarsgård was okay as the leader, because he’s able to convey a sense that he’s a nice dude, underneath all of the evil-looks and thoughts. However, it was conveyed in a way that made him that way, just so it could give him and Marling’s character a reason to bang and fall in love. It didn’t feel like it was needed for the story, if only for that, and didn’t really give him a clearer-enough arc. If anybody deserved to be banging Marling’s character, it was Toby Kebbell as one of the most-important members of the group, who used to be a doctor in Africa, until he was surprisingly harmed by one of the medicines he was given over there, making him shaky and twitchy all of the time. This physical set-back already makes the character seem sympathetic, but the way Kebbell brings out more and more humanity out from within this guy, really makes you feel as if he’s the one who deserves all of the good things in the world, even Marling’s tush.

Hey, can’t go wrong with that, right?

"Pass it to the right, man."
“Pass it to the right, man.”

But as three-dimensional and well-acted some of these characters may actually be, the plot is what really matters here, which makes the ending all the more disappointing. See, if you were paying attention, you may have noticed that the big idea behind this flick was whether the group’s ways of handling their acts of rebellions were right or not? Well, as much build-up and details the movie may have given that message throughout most of the run-time, is all slapped-down by the last 15 minutes in a way I did not expect to see coming. And not in the type of way where I liked the surprise, but in the way where I thought it was a cheap way of getting out of being anything remotely close to insightful, or thought-provoking into where it went.

Can’t say much else other than that, but everything leading up to that was pretty solid in it’s way of getting me involved with it’s characters, their motivations, and what each and every one of them had to say, but the movie shakes a blind-eye towards that all. It sort of makes you feel like the first hour hour and 45 minutes, was made for nothing else other than a bunch of things to make you think, only to have them thrown out of your mind, as soon as things get really complicated for these characters and the movie itself. I guess the movie didn’t want to really offend anybody that may care for this type of material, but there could have been more of a thought-process into what could have been the best and most effective way to go out. The way they chose: nowhere near it and ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth going out. Poor me.

Consensus: There are plenty of ideas, thoughts, and feelings that The East plays with, as well as a relatively-compelling plot-line, but it all gets shut-down after about the hour and a half mark, and then all of a sudden; the movie doesn’t seem to care for any of those elements anymore, and just wants to play it safe without really going any deeper.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bed-room houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghinis around town.
They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bedroom houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghini’s around town.


  1. I’ve been curious about this one since Sundance, as I was a pretty big fan of the director’s Sound of My Voice. Not an Ellen Page fan, though. How was she in the film?

  2. Great ensemble cast acting out a really intelligent script. This was an actor’s showcase. Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, and Patricia Clarkson all gave great performance and the rest of the cast did an impressive job with their smaller parts as well.

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