You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Sundance Review: Why Zal Batmanglij’s ‘The East’ Is Fascinating and Illogical at the Same Time

Sundance Review: Why Zal Batmanglij's 'The East' Is Fascinating and Illogical at the Same Time

Suspenseful, ludicrous, fascinating, and utterly unsubtle, Zal Batmanglij’s “The East” plays like an unholy mash-up of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Alias.” The film builds on the themes of cult and identity that Batmanglij and his star Brit Marling explored artfully in their breakout debut “The Sound of My Voice.” But here, that psychology is in service of a fast-paced espionage potboiler. As Sarah, Brit Marling plays a former FBI agent turned private security consultant who is paid to infiltrate a radical environmental group called The East. She more than confirms buzz that she will be one of film’s next major leading women, and she’s working with a strong set-up for a thriller, in a community that couldn’t be more relevant in the age of Occupy Wall Street, and which has lead to very mixed results on American screens (See: “Battle in Seattle”). There’s plenty to admire, but ultimately this thriller is as overheated as a radical’s rhetoric.

Sarah, a cinematic spy, says goodbye to her preppy boyfriend and smuggles a smartphone in the sole of her tennis shoe, after — in a slightly absurd sequence — dying her brown hair blonde to hide her identity. Then she’s off on the road, riding the rails with the lost kids, palling around the bonfire, dumpster diving, and snapping photos of the freegans she meets along the way. She sends her reports back to her home office, where her boss (a devious Patricia Clarkson) dreams up ways to profit from her intelligence. Eventually, she meets up with The East: a seemingly rag-tag band of misfits working out of what appear to be the rich-kid ruins of Wayne manor. The cult is led by a magnetic Alexander Skarsgaard, with signature six-pack abs and a Jesus beard so scraggly he could be starring in an Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes biopic. Ellen Page plays the distrustful badass; Shiloh Fernandez is the loyal queer activist with eyeliner and a collection of harlequin coats. A charming Toby Kebbel shines as Doc, who despite his tremors and doubts, is the glue of the group.

The cast is strong, and the film is best in the few subtly wrought scenes that dramatize the allure and group dynamic of the cell. There’s a strange game of spin-the-bottle, a palpable, familial feel among the supporting cast by the river, an odd ritual dinner where the activists feed one another in straight jackets. Batmanglij has a particular talent for capturing that unmoored, twentysomething search for meaning, and the tight-knit allure of a group that offers a reason for living. But the film is so plot-driven, those don’t have much room to breathe.

Fast-paced and energetic, “The East” hits a beat and hurries along to the next “Jam.” As slickly paced as a big-studio espionage movie, it nearly succeeds as a pure adrenaline-rush thriller. In the end, the problem isn’t that there’s too much plot, but rather a certain dramatic illogic. The group’s first action is premised on the idea that a pharmaceutical has already made billions off a medicine that regularly causes crippling brain damage after just one dose, without being pulled off the market — when there are plenty of more plausible, less hyperbolic plot devices that wouldn’t have taken the film so far from reality. The second major plot (an attempt to bathe chemical executives in the same waste they dump into rivers) works well enough on its own, without additionally raising the stakes by grafting on a maudlin raft of daddy issues. Like the activists in the film, Batmanglij doesn’t quite seem to know when enough is enough.

It will be fascinating to see how activists respond to this film, since lefty groups are so rarely portrayed in fictional films and two of the only activists who get back-stories are revealed to be rich kids. Violent black bloc groups like the Weather Underground are, of course, rare, and most direct-action activists haven’t been violent at all. Most recent convictions have been for vandalism of storefronts or the sabotage of logging equipment, say, and not the murderous, Batman-villain plots dramatized here and gamed for maximum suspense. These make the cult itself more like something out of a police commissioner’s fever dream. Of course, this is a work of fiction. The often-fascinating film’s flaw is not unsatisfying because it’s unrealistic. Instead, it falls into that uncanny valley between art film and thriller, popcorn and politics, persuasive drama and exaggerated action. It will be fascinating to see what the undeniably talented Batmanglij does next.

Criticwire grade: B

HOW WILL IT PLAY? “The East” tackles a little-covered activist milieu that’s rarely treated in films and will likely alienate red-state audiences when Fox Searchlight releases it nationwide this year. But it’s also a commercial thriller, where the politics are in service of the action, and the insurgent activism in metropolitan and college areas may help this timely work find a solid limited-release audience.

This Article is related to: Reviews and tagged , , , , ,


Regina Nyametscher

I just watched "The East" yesterday. Mesmerizing. Bold story, beautifully cast. So many layers and depths, psychologically gripping. I've just read the comments below. Blown away again. To imagine this film reflects reality for so many people is terrifying. Hope "the power of the people" will manifest via the internet and recreate "The East" in real life leaving out violence – using words, pics and petitions to persecute, name & shame pharmaceutical products and culprits.


I wonder if anyone excepting the people damaged by Johnson & Johnson and Bayer even care about the unpopular idea that a huge company could want to cause severe harm and disability to our too trusting selves. If they did, it would be dealt with already.

Melissa K.

The plot isn't as fictional as one may think. I am a recent victim of fluoroquinolone toxicity. My life has drastically changed because I had an adverse reaction to the drug Cipro. I am glad such a talented director chose to shine a light on the plight of me and others like me.


Do your research before writing! The drug plot IS based on true story, a big ignored, covered up by companies story. I'm a fluoroquinolone (cipro) victim myself and I'm at least lucky enough to have regained most of my life back… spending years recovering from what this drug made of me.

Why so few attention to it? Well the doctors not only trust the side-effects on the box, they actually massively underestimate it. Try going to a doc and reporting you're experiencing psychological & neurological problems some month after taking an antibiotic. Good luck with that, I've been suggested "studing may be just to stressful to you, relax" – that's their explanation. Noone ever considered actually filing a report. If you even get trusted they think you're one out of thousands, so what does your destroyed life matter against the people they helped. Even if the argument was inherently valid (I wasn't suffering that dangerous infection that would validate the risk!) – how would they know about the numbers if they never even care to associate the report with the drug?

I wish the authors had been more clear about the source of the story.. Anyway, check out "" for more information.

Joyce Meadows

Spot on ,these Fluoroquinolones ruin lives,something needs to be done to stop it. And no one will even believe you when it happens.But if you wake up one day after taking Cipro for 5 days and can't walk.along with many other problems you'll believe! don't ever go away!


I’m going to give this reviewer some slack, and assume he or she is young and simply not aware yet of corporate America’s “profit at all costs” mentality. I have not seen this film yet, but the premise does not surprise me. As Brit Marling has stated in another interview . . . “these corporate crimes . . . are simply pulled out of the current headlines”. If you live long enough, you will see the same old story over and over again, whether in the pharmaceutical industry or any other industry. I believe the day will come when the rampant and indiscriminate use of the fluoroquinolone antibiotics will go the way of thalidomide, DES, and most recently, Vioxx, but not without a fight. Simply look up any of these previous “wonder drugs” to see how many people had to be killed, maimed, or born with birth defects before FINALLY these drugs were pulled from the general market or greatly limited in their use. My own mother was “prescribed” cigarettes – yes, that’s right – as part of her “prenatal care”, she was told to start smoking by her doctor while pregnant with my younger sister “to prevent hemorrhoids”. We can laugh, or be aghast now at such a notion, but an entire generation, including the medical profession at the time, was repeatedly brainwashed by the corporations manufacturing these products, and they would leave no stone unturned in promoting the “health and safety” of their products for the sole interest of their own profits (search: Evil Vintage Cigarette Ads Promising Better Health for a nice review).

Here is a quote taken from an article about Vioxx (USA Today, 10/12/2004, Health and Behavior Section, by Rita Rubin): How Did Vioxx Debacle Happen?

"Critics describe the rise and fall of Vioxx as a cautionary tale of masterful public relations, aggressive marketing and ineffective regulation. "The FDA didn't do anything," says Eric Topol, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "They were passive here."

Just insert the word “fluoroquinolone” here – there is no difference. Ruthless and aggressive marketing by the drug companies, and an impotent FDA in bed with Big Pharma, ensure continued disbelief and unawareness of this issue by both the medical profession and the general population. With the advent of the internet, that is now changing. We no longer have to rely on scattered case reports of only the most observant, cognizant, and intrepid of physicians willing to report these adverse effects of the drug they prescribed – ie, willing to admit that they harmed, more than helped, their patient. Thousands of patients now have a voice, and an outlet for their horrific stories and this continued atrocity. And the creative and courageous cast of “The East” have now added their own input in their own creative way to increase awareness of this issue.

To Brit Marling and the entire cast of “The East”: THANK YOU. Greater awareness on this issue is essential, and spreading the word through the media and social media is the ONLY way this is probably going to happen. Patients have a right to informed consent regarding the potential adverse effects from fluoroquinolone antibiotics, including possible life-long disabilities. Widespread public pressure through the media is the best hope to provide awareness for all and to pressure physicians to prescribe responsibly, the pharmaceutical companies to warn adequately, and the FDA to regulate appropriately.

If the pharmaceutical companies and the FDA even remotely gave a S***T about the “health and safety” of the population they market to, they would put their money where their mouth is and take some of their billions in profits to study and research 1)who and why some people have these adverse reactions, 2)how to prevent these adverse reactions from happening, and 3) how to effectively treat them so as to return health and functionality to those who have been severely hit. They would also be promoting “RESPONSIBLE USE” – not widespread, nonchalant use for everything under the sun, passing this stuff out “like candy” to a disbelieving and unsuspecting public.

Sadly, they will not do this out of the “goodness of their hearts”, or because they feel any moral, ethical, or responsible reason to do so. It will only be when they are absolutely backed into a corner and FORCED to do so, just as occurred with thalidomide, DES, Vioxx, and cigarette warnings. Until then, people’s lives will continue to be utterly destroyed by the fluoroquinolone antibiotics. And until the research is done to find the commonalities or cause of why some of us are afflicted, hold your breath and hope it's not YOU.


Its not fiction its FACT its Fluoroquinolones Cipro for me. It has caused to much damage to hope for recovery. To know and realize that this continues is an outrage and a horror. It is criminal. The FDA, the AMA our representatives, the science communities, medical schools should be knowledgeable and informed and frankly preventing this horrible preventable injuries to healthy human beings. These drugs should only be used as last resort if at all.

Ciproispoison dot com

Wait. You think it's far-fetched that a drug company could be ruining peoples' bodies with as little as one pill, while said pill remains on the market? Allow me introduce you to Cipro, Levaquin & Avelox! Furthermore, please Google "Paul Levine Levaquin" to read about Paul Levine who was driven to suicide after taking just ONE Levaquin pill & becoming unable to sleep for months! Please educate yourself before you too become a victim of Bayer "Healthcare" and/or Johnson & Johnson.

Patti Ireland

The actual number of people affected is actually much higher than only 1 in 10- in the PBS news story of June 16, 2011, Dr.David Flockhart, head of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Indiana Medical School and an acknowledged expert on this class of drugs stated that 1 in 3 people given the drug would experience some form of psychiatric effect from the drugs, aside from the other side effects. It is also acknowledged by the FDA that the reporting system for adverse effects is flawed, and less than 10% of negative reactions to drugs (all drugs, not just flouroquinolones) are ever reported. This is why so many drugs get to market, but do not get pulled until much later when thousands have been injured or killed (remember VIOXX?)


Bayer, along with Johnson & Johnson, and the FDA, are all fully aware of how thousands of people have been stricken by the serious adverse reactions to Fluoroquinolones. The three most common prescribed are Avelox, Cipro, and Levaquin – but even with the profits in the billions from the sale of these medications, not one dime has been spent by any of them to research why is it happening, how to reverse, or repair the damage it has caused to the thousands of patients who trusted that the medication they were taking was safe.


It's obvious to those who suffer from Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome that the makers of this film did their research prior to making the film, and were spot on in their portrayal of the symptoms of the adverse effects of this antibiotic. This is a classic "Truth is stranger than Fiction" when it come to Fluoroquinolones. The pharmaceutical companies want the world to believe these reactions are rare, when they are not. It has been estimated that 1 out of 10 people will have some type of reaction to these antibiotics ranging from mild to severe. The pharmaceutical companies are willing to let the "few" suffer for the "greater good." Most people know and understand the risk of tendon damage and rupture from Fluoroquinolones, because the pharmaceutical companies were forced to place a warning on the antibiotics – FORCED being the operative word here. They are NOT going to acknowledge any other reaction they are not forced to do. The scariest part of the whole movie – what does it tell you when Hollywood "gets it" before the FDA does?


Logan, care to re-visit and re-write your review now?

Patti Ireland

The reviewer is clearly not aware of the many hard news stories in the last few years by the New York TImes, Forbes, and NPR documenting the realities of the adverse side effects from Flouroquinolone drugs. Thousands have been crippled and even killed by these drugs. They carry Black Box" warnings, (the last step before removal from the market) and a few have been removed because of their toxicity. I suggest the reviewer do some research, as t5he movie was spot on regarding the effects these drugs can have.

Nancy Edwards

The blotchy, unkempt, confused mess that is Julia Ormond's character after her one dosing of the toxic pharmaceutical, was a perfect fictional analogy for the fate of many in REAL life, who have ingested, or been injected with dangerous Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics. Ormond's character is interviewed after the crime and she says, pitifully, (paraphrasing) "I look in the mirror and don't know myself."

Yeah, that's what happens with Fluoroquinolones! Levaquin, Cipro, et al, can change who you are, how you are, how you live, what you earn, and what you know, OVERNIGHT! Anyone posting that the one ingestion of poison, takes the film into the realm of the preposterous, should read best selling author, Stephen Fried's book, BITTER PILLS, about his wife's one dose of a quinolone, and what it did to their lives.

I would give anything, to still be the kind of ignorant Pollyana, who finds duty in pointing out the storytelling flaws in this film, based on the improbable notion that one dose of the pharmaceutical can't hurt or kill you. But, unfortunately, 5 years ago, I was prescribed Levaquin.


are no more comments being accepted – the site says to protect them from spammers 'your' comment can not be accepted??


What I like best about movies that highlight corporate greed and revenge for the little guy is that the ultimate message is, people matter. The health of their environment matters. Their health matters. Their children matter. And it's not okay for them to be treated as collateral damage by corporate money-mongers.

Such is true in real life.

On a personal level, what I most appreciated about The East was that it accurately depicted the horrors of a real class of prescription antibiotics, fluoroquinolones. The fictionalized Diaoxin (or something like that) that causes central nervous system damage, tendon rupture, seizures, rash, tremors, etc. is based on real reactions to real drugs, antibiotics that go by the names Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox and Larium. As The East depicted, the effects of these drugs can be devastating. The East also illustrated that onset of adverse symptoms can be delayed, leading to people not identifying the drugs as the culprit in their ill health, the fact that a lawsuit is impossible, or at least difficult, because the side-effects are listed on the package insert, that these drugs are being given to our armed forces in massive quantities, that these drugs are toted as a miracle cure for anthrax, that these drugs are commonly used in Africa (and other places in the world where malaria is common) to treat traveler’s diarrhea and malaria, etc. Really, they did an awesome job at portraying as complete a picture as possible of fluoroquinolones and their toxicity. I know, it sounds unbelievable, as if I'm basing my assessment of reality on the movie. In reality, the movie was based on true stories of fluoroquinolone toxicity. Please look at The Fluoroquinolone Wall of Pain on Facebook for stories of illness and my blog, floxiehope (you know how to turn that into a url), for stories of hope and healing.


I haven't seen the movie yet, but have heard of many of my fellow "floxies" talking about it. I will agree with most of the people who have already written below that Fluoroquinolones ruin people's lives. I am living proof of it too. Most fictional work comes out of non-fiction stories. Even yesterday's Supreme Court decision allowing generic drug companies to get away with any libel due to bad drug reactions is proof that the pharmaceutical drug companies can do whatever they want to do to make money and buy off the politicians. Wake up!


The Film, "The East" Is not as fictional as you would like to think…The reality is, that THOUSANDS of people have been disabled and chronically ill for years because of fluoroquinolone antibiotics. I am just 24 years old, and after taking just 5 pills of Cipro, Have been chronically ill and disabled for the past 2 years. My life has been taken away from me, along with so many others, and all we can do is hope that one day we will be able to live again. Every aspect of our lives have been changed due to these drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have been made aware, but continue to look the other way as it is not affecting them. Fluoroquinolones ARE a REAL Danger and "The East" Depicts that danger in the correct manner.

Karen Matthews

Finally the truth ! The FFA does not protect people just big pharma. I am a crippled victim of levaquin One shot and my life as I knew it was over. BRAVO. The East should open many eyes. Thank you.


I was disabled at just 30 years old and have been mostly housebound for the past three years because I took three little Avelox pills for a minor sore throat. I went from working full-time as an engineer and traveling the world, to being bedridden in three days. This is a reality for thousands of people and the pharmaceutical companies are well aware but they do nothing. It's about time people realize what's going on.


flouroquinolone toxicity has happen to millions of is not rare and some would like to say..I was on levaquin for asthmatic bronchitis when I ended up having status asthmaticus and respiratory failure


Not only is the premise of the film plausible. It is happening now, worldwide. An estimated 600,000 people yearly are permanently harmed by Fluoroquinolone antibiotics– primarily to treat sinus infections and urinary tract infections, when more benign antibiotics would be effective. these drugs are 'cash cows' for the pharmaceutical companies. Doctors are ill-informed and prescribe based on pharmaceutical marketing and against FDA standards. Fluoroquinolones differ from other classes of antibiotics, in that they permanently alter mitochondrial DNA of the bacteria in order to eradicate infection. Unfortunately, the drugs also alter other mitochondrial DNA in the human body, specifically the mitoDNA of the fibroblasts of collagen 1a1. It is this collagen that comprises 80% of the collagen in the body, including tendons, skin, teeth, bones, lining of the digestive system and circulatory systems. These drugs also cross the blood/brain barrier and cause brain damage. How do I know all this? Because it happened to me. I survived incipient liver failure following 5 tablets of Cipro, and have been reading scientific research ever since.

Janet Bequeaith

"The East" performs a huge Public Service Announcement for the "Floxed" community. The fluoroquinolone antibiotics are a serious crippler. An IV infusion of Levaquin left me with double-vision within 5 hours. That was the first crippler, within 6 days I was crippled and couldn't bend over for the next 2 years. Fluoroquinolones are REAL and disable REAL people. My sincere thank you to the writers of "The East." The "Floxed" community is grateful for your shedding light on the harm caused by these horrific drugs. Thank you.


Writing from Belgium, I got intoxicated by just 3 pills of Avelox mid February, first side effects showing up within the first hours of first pill. So yes, believe it or not, reality beats fiction well ahead ! If only the movie could succeed in bringing all health authorities in the world to either pull these antibiotic chemical bombs off the market or at least to restrict their use as severely as possible AND give the real reliable information to doctors and the public that all the side effects written in the box can occur with just a dose, that you can get a whole range of those side effects at the same time and that once you have them you will be left alone with no cure and possibly lifelong consequences, then your movie will be more useful than all the victims that have so far been unable to reach that goal. At least the movie will help raise awareness on the subjet. Years ago there has been another movie and book by John Le Carré based on real facts. That was Pfizer testing a FLUOROQUINOLONE on children in Nigeria. They eventually paid the victims not to have it brought to court it seems. But that didn t help enough on the subject. So please dear distributors of the film, and everyone who is going to show it on the screen, put an ad before and after the projection : this is based on real facts and is not fiction !


your movie really hits the nail on the head. as a victim of flouroquinolones, i would like to give all the heads of the drug companies a big dose of their flouroquinolone antiobiotics and set back and watch what it does to them. maybe you think this film was fiction, but in reality it is the truth. thank you.


Simply stated- unless you have experienced the 24/7 life of a Fluoroquinolone damaged poisoned victim, you have no idea how real and really brutal life is just to make it thru the day. I am 5 years out from 2 weeks of Levaquin, and everyday is a struggle. The brutality is increased when your doctor says,"I had no idea about Fluoroquinolone Toxicity" Something is terribly wrong, with a statement like that. The writers, producers, directors and actors, are award wining artists for researching and bringing to light- Fluoroquinolone Poisoning, Thank you all…

Erin Wilson

The drugs represented in this film are fluoroquinolone drugs such as Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro. This is based in complete reality and the film maker based this premise on the reality of a growing number of victims of fluoroquinolone Toxicity. Batmanglij watched a PBS segment about the effects of these drugs on the general population and the victims who are banding together and spreading the word about the dangerous and crippling effects with, YES, as little as one pill. Just because you, Logan Hill are not familiar with Fluoroquinolone Toxicty, does not mean that it does not exist. It does mean that a "Google" search should be done before writing the entire premise off as fantasy. We are real, we have been injured by these drugs and we are not going away. We will continue to warn about the dangers of these drugs and eventually everyone will know how an RX for a urinary tract infection can land you in a wheel chair.


Boy do you need to do your research! 3 piles of Cipro caused me widespread damage with crippling CNS damage for way over a year.


Ironically, I found the Big Pharma piece to the movie the least exaggerated part of the film. Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are huge money makers and extremely potent antibiotics. Big Pharma lies by omission and not being straight about the horrible long term and permanent adverse reactions occurring with these drugs. Doctors are largely unaware of these reactions because they are uninformed and the reaction can occur days, weeks, sometimes months after taking the drug. On the Fluoroquinolone Toxicity support boards we occasionally have a doctor join who was hurt by the drug and they have NO IDEA what hit them. Big Pharma knows but, again, the drugs are blockbuster money makers. If you thought a drug might injure a tendon or cause some temporary discomfort you might still take it – but if you knew a drug might ruin your tendons for life and cause permanent life altering side effects you would avoid it at almost all cost – and a doctor would be less likely to prescribe it. I read two reviews, so far that criticized the movie because the pharmaceutical part was too far fetched. It's not – it actually doesn't capture the true horrors this drug brings to people's lives when it goes wrong – just ask one of the doctors on our support boards or any of the other thousands who have had their lives interrupted, altered, and in some cases, ended by these drugs. There is a book documenting the brain damaging aspects of fluoroquinolones by an investigative reporter whose wife suffered effects as suggested in the movie by one dose – it's called Bitter Pills. There is a documentary film about this class of drugs called "Certain Adverse Events" . . . look for it on you tube. There have been articles and news stories on these adverse effects in the past couple of years on PBS, the New York Times, and other various media – including papers by medical professionals in journals. It's the same lie that energy companies make about their operations not polluting water – deny and assert their safety – for the sake of profit. Part of the movie's truth is that a corporation will do things to people that an individual would never do to someone they knew (unless we're talking sociopaths). Prescription drugs are the number four killer of people in the US yearly (and that is with very conservative, unreported numbers), and the number one reason for emergency room visits – and all these drugs were approved by the FDA. As were all the drugs that have been pulled from the marke for toxicity – including many (most?) of the fluoroquinolones that have been brought to market. No other class of antibiotics has had so many (if any) of their drugs pulled from market. It is in the pharmaceutical companies favor that so many, such as this reviewer, assume that their products are safer than they really are. It's also in their favor that they have a middle man (doctors) that they keep uninformed dispensing their product for them.


A little research and the reviewer will find that Quinolones are regularly killing, maiming, permanently disabling and inducing suicide (not suicidal ideation) due to the horrific chemical torture it causes. Been there, from crossfit football to unable to move/crunching, zapping, jerking, failed digestion. Every week I speak with someone in a similar position terrified as to whether they will live or die, struggling to get Dr's to believe them. Once you've experienced Fluoroquinolones up close and personal you will never forget the living hell they can cause. Some never recover.


I was almost killed at 16 by a Fluoroquinolone antibiotic (Cipro) so don't tell me that this movie is illogical. What's illogical is assholes like you who have their heads shoved so far up their asses that they don't see what's going on in the world around them. I'm now 19 and consider myself 95% recovered from my Fluoroquinolone toxicity. I still have anxiety and depression on a daily basis. My hips, knees, and shoulders pop out of socket regularly. If I laugh too hard my heart goes out of rythm. If I consider this 95% better, then I'm sure you can only imagine the hell I've gone through just to get where I am. Nothing about this movie is illogical. People have their lives destroyed by these antibiotics everyday, and many die. If you find this illogical then maybe you should take a nice big dose of a Fluoroquinolone antibiotic, and we'll see how much of a smartass you are then. Have a nice day (:

Dana Delikat

I too, have been crippled from the fluoroquinolone antibiotic Levaquin and cipro! As I get up this morning after working yesterday, I can hardly walk down my stairs from back pain due to wearing a boot because once again, my left ankle's tendon and ligaments were torn and ankle broken by the very ordinary act of stepping on my foot to go across the room! My right ankle threatens to tear due to the brittleness of my ligaments, and I have to be careful! I was prescribed Levaquin and Cipro for not life threatening conditions: UTI, Bronchitis, etc. 40 times between 2003 and 2009 and feel the effects everyday as do hundreds and thousands of others! And yes, the big Pharms no, and no the lawyers won't touch it because of the their money and power that goes with that! Meanwhile, we are left with the pain, the loss of vitality, job, career, and ability to work to our full potential, or at all!
I suggest if you really want to get noticed as a writer, dig deeper, challenge more, stand up for facts! And look at the other side of the coin……..we are people that trusted our Doctors and big companies, now struggling, and are being seen as complainers, lazy, and a thorn in society's social economic system. It is not our fault, and we should be compensated, but……that is a whole other story. Would you like to cover that one? Someone needs to. This is real life.


I would like to know the basis for your assertions that the idea of a crippling drug netting pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars without being pulled from the market is unrealistic, illogical, and implausible. You must believe that you have some pretty compelling evidence, since you based your entire review on truth of those assertions. I have been crippled by the fluoroquinolone antibiotic Levaquin, whose annual sales total in the billions, and which is still on the market in spite of crippling thousands of people – a fact of which its manufacturer and the FDA are well aware. Even the slightest investigation on your part would have revealed this to you. And then you could have written an informed review based on fact, not baseless assertions. And then your review would have been relevant.


I have not seen this film yet, but I have had my life devastated by a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Up until Dec. 2009, I was a healthy, physically active mom who exercised 5 days a week. I had a sinus infection and was prescribed Levaquin to treat it. The doctor did not mention any warning regarding possible side effects with this antibiotic. I had taken other antibiotics over the years for occasional sinus infections with no problems, except mild stomach upset. After taking Levaquin for 7 days, it was like an explosion went off in my body. I developed body wide tendonopathy and peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms increased over a few weeks until I was unable to walk. I had to use a wheel chair for over a year. Now 3 years later, I am still only able to walk at most a mile very slowly. I have permanent peripheral neuropathy and chronic pain. I don't necessarily think this antibiotic should be removed from the market, but I DO think it should be used as a last resort when other less harmful antiobiotics have not been effective. Doctors should have to warn patients of the potential permanent side effects which are life altering. Please do research before taking these antibiotics.

Helen Russell

Illogical? Unrealistic? Really?! My daughter was given Cipro at the age of 16 in an emergency room–for a UTI it turned out she didn't even have. We received no patient information with the prescription, but even if we had, it wouldn't have been adequate. First of all, these drugs are not even supposed to be given to anyone under 18, and we definitely weren't told that! Five hours after she took the first pill, she literally jumped up off the couch in a panic–her chest hurt, she couldn't breathe, couldn't swallow, was "dying"–no prior history of anxiety or anything like it. We took her back to the e.r. They should have known what caused this, but they simply passed us off. Since we didn't immediately make the connection, we continued with the 3-day prescription. We made four trips to emergency rooms in that first week, and she was semi-comatose for the majority of that week. What followed was 2 1/2 years of CNS symptoms: tingling, twitching, burning nerve pain, muscle spasms, as well as body temperatures anywhere between 95 and 97. All this was accompanied by major anxiety–not "attacks"–but 24/7. She also had insomnia, hallucinations, nightmares, joint pain, occasional bouts of tendonitis, repeated bouts of kidney stones and salivary gland stones, and ovarian cysts. She had NONE of these problems before she took Cipro–and this all started about 5 hours after that first pill. Finally, 3 years later, she is getting her life back. She still occasionally suffers from anxiety, but is able, for the most part to control it. Many others have not been so lucky, and are still suffering many years later. There have also been many who are not here to speak for themselves, because their side effects were fatal, or they committed suicide. In the life of a teenager, 3 years is a long time to lose, and my daughter virtually lost 3 years of her life due to Cipro (a fluoroquinolone antibiotic). It's time the drug companies step up and take responsibility for the many, many lives they have ruined with these "medications"!!

Helen Russell

Illogical? Unrealistic? Really?! My daughter was given Cipro at the age of 16 in an emergency room–for a UTI it turned out she didn't even have. We received no patient information with the prescription, but even if we had, it wouldn't have been adequate. First of all, these drugs are not even supposed to be given to anyone under 18, and we definitely weren't told that! Five hours after she took the first pill, she literally jumped up off the couch in a panic–her chest hurt, she couldn't breathe, couldn't swallow, was "dying"–no prior history of anxiety or anything like it. We took her back to the e.r. They should have known what caused this, but they simply passed us off. Since we didn't immediately make the connection, we continued with the 3-day prescription. We made four trips to emergency rooms in that first week, and she was semi-comatose for the majority of that week. What followed was 2 1/2 years of CNS symptoms: tingling, twitching, burning nerve pain, muscle spasms, as well as body temperatures anywhere between 95 and 97. All this was accompanied by major anxiety–not "attacks"–but 24/7. She also had insomnia, hallucinations, nightmares, joint pain, occasional bouts of tendonitis, repeated bouts of kidney stones and salivary gland stones, and ovarian cysts. She had NONE of these problems before she took Cipro–and this all started about 5 hours after that first pill. Finally, 3 years later, she is getting her life back. She still occasionally suffers from anxiety, but is able, for the most part to control it. Many others have not been so lucky, and are still suffering many years later. There have also been many who are not here to speak for themselves, because their side effects were fatal, or they committed suicide. In the life of a teenager, 3 years is a long time to lose, and my daughter virtually lost 3 years of her life due to Cipro (a fluoroquinolone antibiotic). It's time the drug companies step up and take responsibility for the many, many lives they have ruined with these "medications"!!

Candace Brown - Destruida los Restos

"..but rather a certain dramatic illogic. The group's first action is premised on the idea that a pharmaceutical has already made billions off a medicine that regularly causes crippling brain damage after just one dose, without being pulled off the market — when there are plenty of more plausible, less hyperbolic plot devices that wouldn't have taken the film so far from reality. "
Far from reality? You stupid, complacent reviewer-person!
This is what a few tablets did to me:
Follow the links, get informed, then apologise or try taking the stuff yourself, but don't expect any sympathy.


I am glad that this film exposes the fact that there are many drugs on the market today that are destroying lives and the pharmaceutical companies know this yet are doing nothing about it. My life has been ruined by Cipro which is a Fluoroquinolone Antibiotic – the class of antibiotics depicted in this film. The destruction that this group of antibiotics causes is real. There are thousands of us out here that are suffering. It is very sad. These antibiotics are poison. For some it just takes one pill and for others it takes several. You never know which category you will be in. Don't think because you have taken one of these antibiotics in the past you are safe. Some damage was done already and it could be the next dose that turns your life upside down. The manufacturers know this and the FDA knows this yet are doing nothing about it because of $$$$. Hopefully this film helps spread the word and soon these very dangerous antibiotics are taken off of the market . Thank you The East.

Robert Oldfield

The plot is taken from real life. Myself and many tens of thousands have been unwittingly affected by fluoroquinolone toxicity which is a devastating and life-changing set of conditions. If you were to do the slightest bit of research before pontificating on matters of which you know nothing then you would be in a position to be critical. Let me make you an offer ….. YOU take ciprofloxacin or Levavquin then reply to me vfia my email.

Chad Bonsack

If you are saying that Fluoroquinolone Antibiotic Toxicity can't happen off one pill .You are absolutely wrong.I was given a drug from doctors that had been Black boxed for many years I asked the doctor and they laughed and said do you know how many drugs have been black boxed but are still on the market. This is reality one pill can ruining your life or change it for ever .Know your facts before you blast a movie.

Debra Cook

I've not seen this movie, but have read many opinions on the matter.

Here's mine: My life and many others have either been completely destroyed or ended by this class of drugs – fluoroquinolones. No, we don't have definitive proof of this, but our neurological, emotional, physical, biological symptoms have been labeled by the medical community, for the most part, as "unknown ideology". This is after extensive, painful, expensive tests and biopsies. The only common link is that we took a prescription drug as prescribed by our doctors who deemed it harmless, mine happened to be Cipro.

I was warned of the possibility of tendon ruptures, but NEVER told or received the insert with ALL the warnings. Go to the FDA website and look it up. Peripheral neuropathy, digestive disorders, brain fog, gait disorders, speech impairment, severe depression, muscle spasms/tics throughout your body, etc.

When my neuropathy started, my doctor blew it off and said it was my Celiac disease and nothing was to be done about it. Gave me yet another round of Cipro/Prednisone. I have been poisoned for the past 6 years by well-meaning doctors trying to "fix" me. A major crash brought me to the emergency room. After 8hrs of CT scans, cardiac workup, tons of blood work, I was sent home with the diagnosis of "peripheral neuropathy". It was so much more as spasms ripped throughout my entire body, brain included. They told my husband and I that under no circumstance could Cipro be the cause of my condition…

I'm not after monetary gain – I just want the folks who make it and the folks who prescribe it to be honest. My wish is for someone to never endure what I've been experiencing. I can't drive, barometric pressure changes send my body into a living hell, I can't work, read a book and comprehend it, garden, play with my grandchildren, work with my horses, socialize with friends or even have a date night with my husband of 28yrs. My short term memory is shot. I can't write as holding a pen sends horrific pains up to the base of my skull, each click of the keyboard makes it feel like my fingernails are being ripped off my hands. I've lost my independence, most of my dignity, gone through our entire savings and am still over $14,000 in debt due to medical expenses – but I will continue to fight until this class of drugs are removed from use in humans and in our foods.

Until you've done some more research on the matter, perhaps you shouldn't do such a hurtful review of something that you obviously have no idea about.


Ummm… NO!

The "plot device" is in fact, very real, as I know from personal experience. Over 3 years ago I took a fluoroquinolone antibiotic (Cipro) and went from a healthy gym rat to crippled overnight. I now have extensive nerve and tendon damage that is permanent. What's more, thanks to tort reform funded by big pharma, there is no legal recourse for me and the thousands of others who have been crippled. This is the way the USA now is, and thank goodness the film makers had the guts to tell the truth. If you google fluoroquinolone side effects you will very quickly see blogs and forums of the many victims of these dangerous drugs. One good site is and another is… there are countless others.

Terry Aston

My life is destroyed from taking Levaquin and Cipro …Very dangerous drugs . We will be protesting again against these drugs in Washington DC in May 2014 … Exact date unknown…. it is pending approval.You can check in a few months on the FQ DC Rally page .on FB When the approval is given updates will be given on the FQ DC Rally page …Please feel free to come join us for the Rally !


Here is an incomplete list of potential adverse reactions associated with fluoroquinolone antibiotics (there are many more–if you go to the Levaquin, Avelox, or Cipro websites you can read about more).
Central Nervous System:
-toxic psychosis

Peripheral Nervous System:

Musculoskeletal System:
-joint pain
-tendon rupture
-muscle pain (rhabdomyolysis- a potentially fatal, rapid muscle wasting ADR which may include dark or pink urine).

Cardiovascular System:
-torsedes de pointes (a fatal arrhythmia)
-heart attack
-palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
-bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
-tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)

Immune System:
-anaphylactic reaction (potentially fatal allergic reaction)
-Steven-Johnson Syndrome (potentially fatal autoimmune reaction where the immune system attacks the skin).

Additional ADR's:
-renal (kidney) failure
-liver failure (potentially fatal)

Drug Interactions- FQ's should not be taken together with:
-Corticosteroids )i.e. prednisone
-NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs i.e. Advil, Nuprin, Motrin, Naprosyn, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Mobic etc).


Quinolones (mentioned in The East) are currently one of the most commonly prescribed classes of antibiotics. They are very powerful medications used to treat many types of infections such as respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and sinus infections. The three most commonly prescribed fluoroquinolones are Levaquin, Cipro, and Avelox. Like all medications this class of antibiotics has side effects. However, what differentiates this class of antibiotics from others is that fluoroquinolones have the ability to cause severe and permanent disability. Many of these side effects can even occur weeks to months after taking the antibiotic. Hence, many people never link their health problems back to the antibiotic due to this delayed toxicity. Approximately half of the fluoroquinolones that were once on the market have now been removed from clinical practice due to their severe toxicities. Examples include Tequin, Omniflex, Trovan, and zagam.

Fluoroquinolones were never meant to be used as a first line of defense against common and routine infections which is how they are often prescribed today. They are often prescribed indiscriminately and without proper warning to patients.

In July of 2008, the FDA mandated that fluoroquinolone antibiotics carry a "Black Box Warning" for tendon rupture and tendonitis. This is the strongest warning label a drug can have before it is removed from the market. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, sued the FDA demanding fluoroquinolones carry a Black Box warning. The FDA gets approximately 50% of their funding for the review of drugs directly from the pharmaceutical industry in what is called prescription user fees. Many feel that this is a conflict of interest that has made the FDA very slow nd often reluctant to react to drug toxicities of all kinds.

Then in February of 2011, the FDA mandated a second Black Box warning to be placed on fluoroquinolones for the risk of fluoroquinolone associated Myasthenia Gravis exacerbation. "Fluoroquinolones have neuromuscular blocking activity and may exacerbate muscle weakness in persons with myasthenia gravis. Postmarketing serious adverse events, including deaths and requirement for ventilatory support, have been associated with fluoroquinolone use in persons with myasthenia gravis. Avoid fluoroquinolones in patients with known history of myasthenia gravis."

Currently there is a petition for yet a third Black Box warning to be placed on fluoroquinolones. Many people who experience adverse reactions to this class of drugs experience debilitating central nervous system damage (to learn more and to sign the petition please go to: ) . However, we feel that there should also be further Black Box warnings placed on fluoroquinolones for peripheral nervous system damage as well as other serious adverse reactions. Hopefully the FDA will mandate further Black Box warnings for fluoroquinolones to adequately warn both the medical community, and the public of the potential for harm from these medications in the future.

Unfortunately, thousands upon thousands of innocent patients have already experienced the crippling effects of fluoroquinolones despite the current level of warnings, clearly something more must be done to protect the public.

Most doctors have dismissed patient complaints or outright deny that fluoroquinolones can cause this type of long term damage even though it is mentioned in the package insert. The FDA states that less than 10% of all adverse drug reactions ever get reported to their agency. This level of failure is alarming.

Before anyone takes this class of antibiotics they should have the right to know that it can cause irreversible damage. People need to be afforded the right of informed consent. The prescribing literature patients receive at the pharmacy is far different than what is in the tiny print in the package insert. As victims of fluoroquinolone antibiotic toxicity, we feel that we have a moral obligation to warn as many people as possible.


Please watch this PBS NewsHour clip about fluoroquinolones (the antibiotics mentioned in The East), to view the news segment Google: PBS Levaquin. If you do a little research on fluoroquinolones you will discover just how dangerous they can be. Unfortunately, this aspect of The East was spot on and factual.

John Abrams

I was poisoned by flouroquinolone antibiotics. It's only been 5 years. I am still trying to get over the brain damage… it damages GABA receptors. My mitochondria is damaged, so I suspect that its the mitochondria DNA. The US government performed a scientific study on 5,000 postal workers that took cipro in the wake of the anthrax scare. About 2/3 had adverse reactions and there was class action lawsuit. The government closed the study after just six months. I met someone's wife who was killed last January. I have a friend that is going blind. This is real. Flouroquinolones can chelate enough magnesium out of your system that your heart goes into a cardiac arrest. Johnson and Johnson, Bayer and the FDA, we are coming for you. Be scared. The lawyers are searching like sharks. Karma is a bitch. You withheld research long enough. FQs have been in poultry for many years without the public knowing!


"Violent black bloc groups like the Weather Underground"
…uhhh not sure where to begin here, but you could start with the fact that the term "black bloc" wasn't used prior to the late 1990s, that it describes a particular set of tactics used at demonstrations (and so doesn't apply to isolated, underground terrorist groups), and that it's almost exclusively applied to anarchists (which the Weather Underground certainly were not). I appreciate your critique of the violent, cultish premise though. I'm curious to see the film, but my impression from what I've read is that it sounds like as much a fantastical paranoid slander of left-wing activism as The Dark Knight Rises

john seaton

Sorry to be a stickler for the facts, I haven't seen the film, but the idea that a premise based on 'the idea that a pharmaceutical has already made billions off a medicine that regularly causes crippling brain damage after just one dose, without being pulled off the market'
is implausible is just ill informed and naive.
Many drugs that do irreparable damage are on the market for years before they are finally recalled. Some are never recalled, but instead, the albeit small percentage that are killed or maimed are considered acceptable so-called collateral damage.
A medical report in 1998 estimated that adverse reactions to prescription drugs are killing about 106,000 Americans each year- roughly three times as many as are killed by automobiles.
This makes prescription drugs the fourth leading killer in the U.S., after heart disease, cancer, and stroke. The report included only drugs that were given properly and under normal circumstances, excluding drugs that were administered in error or taken in attempted suicides.
I'm not going to cite or link to any of the voluminous material that can be had via google, but
I would hope that you might inform yourself before making a bad call on a supposed plot weakness in the film.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *