The East Review

The East

I’m having an unexpected relationship to this film.

Part of me wants it to be real, too much of me really.

I wish there was an underground eco-terrorist anarchy group who were suave, sophisticated, sexy and dedicated to making corporations, specifically their CE and CF officers, accountable for their actions.

I want to love the earth as effortlessly as these people do, to baptise my self in cold streams; to eat an endless bounty of apples and pears, bruised only because I clutched them so close to me.

The East is centered around the journey of Sarah, talented actress and the film’s co-writer Brit Marling, as a former FBI agent turned private intelligence operative under the employ of shadowy company Hiller Brood.

The film begins when Sarah’s boss, played with a cold, calculating yet delicious edge by Patricia Clarkson, assigns her to find, infiltrate and investigate known as The East; an emerging eco terrorism collective that made it their mission to make corporate CEO’s pay for the devastation they are causing to the earth.

Since The East target the very companies Hiller Brood protect, this mission is of utmost importance. Leaving the comfort of her life in Washington behind her, Sarah heads off on the road; hitchhiking, camping, foraging and hoping to find some lead that will take her to the mysterious and elusive Eco-anarchist group.

After an unexpected brush with the law, Sarah’s finds herself wounded and in need of medical attention. Luca, (Shiloh Fernandez) a fellow traveler she met along the road, seeing she needs help, agrees to take Sarah to see a doctor-friend of his. Sarah awakes to find that she has managed to infiltrate ‘The East’. A motley band of intellectuals and activists, Benji (Alexander Skarsguard) and Izzy (Ellen Page) form the emotional core of the group, along side the aforementioned doctor, Doc (Tobby Keller).

What comes next however is a long and grueling process where Sarah has to learn to fit in with the community if she is ever going to fulfill her mission. Yet in learning their ways, in learning about why they are motivated to commit the acts they are infamous for, Sarah begins to loose her way. Occasionally journeying out into the world, she finds the sea of suits and corporate bureaucracy startlingly soulless.

Not only is the east incredibly well scripted, it is almost prophetically topical. Between Edward Snowden and rising social anger at corporate creed, The East, feels like a dramatic capturing of the current cultural zeitgeist.

Additionally the film really shines under Zal Batmanglij’s probing direction. The slow pacing, autumnal color pallet, and almost ethereal camera work, makes the entire film feel mythic; as does its frequent use of religious tropes; apples, baptisms, Messiah figures, prayer.

Unlike other filmmakers, Batmanglij allows for endless slow moments where the characters are allowed to unfold in front of you.

Moments become symbolic, looks become weighted with deep undercurrents of emotions, and The East’s pacing also reflects this elegant direction as we move effortlessly from interior psychological drama, to action packed sequences.

A film well worth watching, filled with concepts well worth investigating, The East should be watched, shared and celebrated.

Shelton Lindsay

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June 2013
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