Coming to theatres this Friday from director/writer Zal Batmanglij and writer Brit Marling comes a story of one woman’s infiltration of THE EAST.
This film tells the story of Sarah (Brit Marling), an operative for an intelligence agency. Living with boyfriend Tim (Jason Ritter), he doesn’t know of her secret job and what it entails. Coming back from trips is much-needed downtime for Sarah.
She is summoned by Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), the head of her department with a new assignment. There is a group of anarchists called THE EAST led by a charismatic leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgard) who cause damage to major corporations they believe are hurting people. Her assignment is to infiltrate the group, become comfortable with them and discover where the next target it.
Sharon changes her looks as appearance to fit in as a displaced woman looking to lite somewhere. She meets Doc (Toby Kebbell), Luca (Shiloh Fernandez), Thumbs (Aldis Hodge), Tess (Danielle MacDonald) and a very suspicious Izzy (Ellen Page).
Sarah is introduced to a world where she must fit in well enough to get the job done without becoming involved with the group on a personal level. That includes the handsome and free spirited Benji.
She makes twists and turns on this journey taking her to a pivotal point she never could have imagined.
FINAL WORD: I first saw Marling in a film called ANOTHER EARTH that was followed by SOUND OF MY VOICE and now THE EAST. What ever film this actress does, it comes with a serious appreciation for what she is accomplishing. As co-writer of all three of these films Marling brings so much to the silver screens table.
In her role as Sarah there is an intense triple-ness that can’t be ignored. Already living a secret life with her boyfriend, Marling ups the stakes by going even deeper into a triple life. She does so without missing a beat and never forgets the humanity of the situation.
Skarsgard as leader Benji is exactly what most think a leader would be. Charming and charismatic with a sad persona that draws good-hearted people into the fold. His motives may have started out well enough but when others are hurt the group will also take the fall. Watching Skarsgard play this role it is easy to see how, with the smooth voice and good looks, audiences might need to remember what’s at stake for those who follow.
Page as Izzy is the very suspicious and emotionally void which works right into what is needed to keep the group together. There isn’t a mission that Page won’t do and believes that sacrifices must be made for the good of all – whether the all know it or not.
Kebbell, Fernandez, Hodge and MacDonald round out the followers who are loyal, faithful and have the mindset to do what is necessary to follow Benji. Clarkson as Sharon is tough and will not sacrifice her job for anyone who won’t get the job done – including Sarah.
Other cast include: Julia Ormond as Paige Williams, Billy Magnussen as Porty McCabe, Wilbur Fitzgerald as Robert McCabe, John Neisler as Rory Huston and Jamey Sheridan as Richard Cannon.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE EAST four tubs of popcorn out of five. The film is already an Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and I have no doubt will receive more accolades. The writing is well done and with the scenes filmed in the deep woods in lower-than-average standards allows the viewer into the story as a silent participant.
Wanting to understand both sides there are moments as the film unravels that clearly need to be addressed and people who need to be held accountable. How it all comes about is what muddles the mystery Sarah must unravel. Marling and co-writer Batmanglij take those mysteries and give them a twist that leads to the finale.
In the end – spy on us and we’ll spy on you.