Two years ago, Brit Marling was the talk of Sundance: a
newcomer with two movies in competition which she co-wrote and costarred in.
She’s doing double-duty again in an intriguing new thriller called The East.
Patricia Clarkson recruits Marling to join her top-secret
private intelligence firm and sends her undercover to join an eco-terrorist
group called The East, run by Alexander Skarsgård. This low-key collective
plays dirty tricks on corporations that are polluting the environment and manufacturing
drugs with dangerous side effects.
Of course, the built-in problem with embedding yourself in a
close-knit group like this is that you get to know its members as people; that
makes it tough to remain aloof and stay on-course. Marling and her co-writer
and director Zal Batmanglij explore this subject with intelligence and feeling
for the ethical and moral issues involved. The
East is an involving, often exciting drama with good parts for Marling,
Skarsgård, Clarkson, Ellen Page, and Toby Kebbell.
Another filmmaking team could have taken the same material
and played it more dramatically; it’s the lack of Hollywood slickness that I
admired most about The East. The
ending is a bit low-key, but has staying power, and that matters more, to my
way of thinking.