Director: Zal Batmanglij
Writer: Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Aldis Hodge, Danielle Macdonald, Hillary Baack, Jason Ritter, Julia Ormond, Patricia Clarkson
Sarah (Brit Marling) works for a private security company. Their newest client is worried about ecoterrorist group The East, so Sarah gets the assignment from her boss (Patricia Clarkson) to infiltrate them. After a long search, Sarah meets Luca (Shiloh Fernandez) who brings her into the group which is (unofficially) led by Benji (Alexander Skarsgard). Even though it isn’t easy to get in at first, Sarah quickly finds herself in deeper than she ever thought.
The East is exciting, interesting and well acted. It asks many smart questions and though the way it ultimately resolves those questions was a little unfortunate, especially since it tries not to resolve anything too clearly for the first 112 minutes (runtime: 116 min). But it is still excellent.
The East is not the subtlest of movies. The sect-like dynamics in The East, Sarah’s estrangement from her own fiancé (Jason Ritter) and life in general, the politics of The East’s targets, the goals of the security company – it’s all pretty on the nose. But while it’s not subtle, it doesn’t leave out the complexities. Instead it drags you from moral dilemma to moral dilemma and lets them play out in a way that pretty much everybody loses.
But because it went so ambivalently about the film, the ending is a little more grating in its fantastical wish-fulfillment-ness. Sarah basically becomes a superhero and singlehandedly saves the world and that was just a step too far. [My theory to headcanon everything okay is that the last two minutes or so are all in her head.]
But apart from the ending that was a little botched, I enjoyed everything else about the film. It’s well-paced and tense and just draws you along, even though it is rather obvious where things are headed.
The performances were excellent, too. I was suprised about the many faces I knew in the background – like Toby Kebbell and Aldis Hodge (I would have liked to see more of both) – and little surprisingly Patricia Clarkson was awesome. But Brit Marling and Alexander Skarsgard are the center of the film and rightly so. Not only are both Sarah and Benji interesting characters, Skarsgard and Marling portray them with an intensity that is pretty mesmerizing. [Plus, there is gratuitous naked Skarsgard and though the Skarsgard-Fernandez kiss is cut disappointingly short, Brit Marling gets to make out with Ellen Page, so yay for fanservice.]
All of that makes me even more disappointed that The Sound of My Voice didn’t make it to Austria. I’ll have to hunt it down.
Summarizing: totally worth it.