The politically thrilling new film, "The East," is about gray areas. Are eco-anarchists justified in exacting revenge upon corporations guilty of deadly malfeasance? Director Zal Batmanglij skillfully puts his audience in a position where they have to decide.
"The East" refers to a "violent eco-vigilante group" which punishes conglomerates that are poisoning innocent people. Their approach is biblical in nature having the perpetrators unknowingly ingesting their own deadly pharmaceuticals and swimming in their own toxic wastes. "An eye for an eye."
Former FBI agent, Sarah (Brit Marling), is recruited by an intelligence firm which provides security to corporations prone to attack by radicals. Her first assignment is to infiltrate The East. She manages to do so but it's not an easy task. The group is extremely well organized and adept at carrying out vicious acts that go viral. They're also victims of the corporations that they single out in one way or another.
Sarah finds herself re-evaluating her moral place in the world. Is it acceptable to poison those responsible for poisoning or is there a more rational way of dealing with corporate greed? In the film's opening scene there's a clue to what makes her tick. She's listening to Christian radio for a brief moment in the car. Sarah's righteous.
"The East" is an incredible piece of filmmaking. The script is cleverly cohesive and completely credible. Marling co-wrote it with close friend Batmanglij, a relationship they shared making "The Sound of My Voice." Their collaborative efforts break fresh ground in movie making — a rarity these days.
The film also sports a captivating cast including Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell and Alexander Skarsgard. Patricia Clarkson has a small but commanding role as Sarah's icy, heartless boss who warns, "Sympathy is inevitable." But Marling's performance is so beautifully ambiguous, we're never quite sure where her loyalties lie. Will she be turned, go rogue or do the right thing (whatever that means) when put to the test? The ending will astound you.
"The East" is so ironically relevant given our present political climate regarding insider leaks within the intelligence community. This film is mainly about corporate espionage but on a larger scale it exposes the vast ability we possess to tap into anyone's personal information. I exited the theater with a severe case of goosebumps.