MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Brit Marling as SARAH
Alexander Skarsgård as BENJI
Ellen Page as IZZY
Toby Kebbell as DOC
Shiloh Fernandez as LUCA
Aldis Hodge as THUMBS
Danielle Macdonald as TESS
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Zal Batmanglij
BY KEVIN CARR
I came to “The East” with a different perspective than most. I’m not wild about Brit Marling (whom I think is a passable but uninspiring actor), but I really enjoyed her in “The Sound of My Voice.” With “The East,” she re-teams with Zal Batmanglij to tell the story of a fringe anarchist movement and the woman who tries to infiltrate them.
While I don’t particularly like Marling, I respect the hell out of her for being an independent voice and commanding her own work. We don’t see a lot of that in movies nowadays, at least not in movies that manage to break out of the trappings of grass-roots independent films. It was nice to see her partner again with Batmanglij, as they did an excellent job on “The Sound of My Voice.”
In “The East,” Marling plays a corporate spy named Sarah, who infiltrates the group known as The East. However, after living amongst them for the better part of a year, she soon sympathizes with them and eventually turns to their cause.
My theatrical review of “The East” became the target of some flames (which you can see here) when I was scolded for not praising and understanding the reality behind the elements of the plot. In particular, the antibiotics’ ill effects in the movie were taken from actual reports. And I’m sure that’s true, though I still haven’t done research into this that extends beyond a Wikipedia search.
This is not me defending the greed and corruption in many large corporations and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. It is, however, me noticing the gray area (which, if you pay attention to the special features on this disc, is one of the themes and approaches of this film). Antibiotics are great. Anyone who has had a nasty infection can tell you this. That’s not to say that their development should be unrestrained and not studied to full consequence. It’s a real gray area, as is much of what is brought to light in this film.
Similarly, scolding society for throwing away good food that has been deemed unfit because of government regulations and expiration dates also falls into a gray area. Sure, there’s a lot of food that will extend past a printed expiration date (and I’m as guilty as anyone else of eating some cottage cheese a couple days after the date stamp on its lid), but do you want to feed your children that food that exists in that gray area?
“The East” has a lot to say about waste, corruption and greed. It’s hard to not feel uneasy when presented with the problems faced in this film. Likewise, it’s hard to not see the eco-terrorists’ point of view on a lot of this. However, like the character of Sarah in the film, Marlin and Batmanglij seem to be too close to the extreme they are examining. Rather than really stirring things up in the gray area, “The East” takes sides pretty quickly in the whole mess (possibly even before the picture is up on the movie).
Still, “The East” is an effective modern thriller. It manages to tell a story of deception and fear without stumbling into too many cliches or becoming too Hollywood. It’s a well-made movie that kept my interest. I would have liked to see a more believable version of the main character, showing a greater change like the one we saw of those in “The Sound of My Voice.” However, it’s a decent film to check out.
The Blu-ray comes with Digial HD UltraViolet streaming, along with a couple deleted scenes. The rest of the bonus material is rounded out with some decent and insightful featurettes: “Examining the Moral Gray,’ “Cause and Effect: The Movement of The East,” “Two Brothers: Collaboration,” “The East Exposed: The Story,” “Off the Grid: Creating The East” and “Casting The East.”