Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: The East

Copyright: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Dumpster diving, train hopping, first aid that relies on superglue and home-made anesthetics. These are just some of the characteristic of the daily life of an imaginary group of underground activist called The East that live off the grid. One day Sarah, a young woman crosses their path by accident. Few days before that, Sarah left her boyfriend  and took a fake trip to Dubai, but instead went undercover as an agent for a private security firm. Her mission is to evaluate the group and figure out what exactly are they capable of, after an an incursion that left the insides of a mansion belonging to an oil company CEO covered in his product.

The East was distributed by Fox Searchlight, but is mostly the brain child of Brit Marling. Marlin is definitely an emerging writing voice in Hollywood, which can be seen by the cast she got for her new movie – directed by Zal Batmanglij, as her previous movie, but starring alongside herself, Ellen Page, Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Skarsgård. Mainstream is definitely taking notice of her talent, and the bigger budget she got wasn’t wasted on cheap tricks.

The dynamic is clearly a political thriller, but the way the movie avoids violence, and the regular motions we see in these kinds of films. By placing the main character in the shoes of an undercover agent, the back and forth transition between the freegans of The East and the security firm doesn’t become bothersome, and the two sides of the story smoothly interlock in Sarah’s eyes.

Brit Marling, who also stars in the lead role, is obviously fascinated by the idea of a renegade group that gradually draws in the person that is firstly intended on its destruction. But the resemblance to her last film, The Sound of My Voice, ends there. Instead of an open ending, The East resolves its issues, seen from the eyes of the main character, much earlier – the moment when Sarah Moss decides to jump into the rabbit hole isn’t important. Instead, the movie explores the way she chooses to do it. Persons from the corporate world that The East target aren’t simply “enemies”, but are also complex individuals that make both wrong and right decisions, so that we as an audience can’t easily demonize them as the shallow, greedy villains, no matter how hard the group try’s to portray them this way to each other. Simultaneously, the environment is degrade and polluted day by day, and other men, women and children continue to suffer because of them.

Through Sarah’s dilemma, the story also cleverly analyses the idea of changing an undoubtedly unjust world, without sooner or later coming to a conclusion that explosives and guns are needed for this noble task.

Environmentalism, responsibility, and belief in humanity are all woven by Marling, and the ending provides a clean knot that rounds up the whole story. I’m eagerly looking forward to her next movie, and the subject she decides to present through it.

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