The East: Quietly Mesmerizing—Movie

The East,” directed by Zal Batmanglij with screenplay by Batmanglij and Brit Marling, is a gripping drama that seems especially relevant in today’s climate.The East movie

“The East” follows Jane/Sarah (Marling) as a young, novice intelligence operative working for a private security firm. Her first assignment calls for her to infiltrate a group of environmental anarchists who call themselves The East, which is headed by Benji (Alexander Skarsgård). The East is known for using terrorist tactics to wreak havoc on major corporations it believes are polluting the environment and maiming or killing humans. Jane’s assignment is to gain the group’s trust and learn if or what they are planning for one of her firm’s clients. As she gets to know the group members and the rationale behind their individual involvement in the East’s cause, her emotions become conflicted.  She actually comes to have compassion for what they are doing.

In some ways, “The East” is very reminiscent of the first season of the late 1980s television series, “Wise Guy.” In that series, the FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate the Mafia becomes very sympathetic and attracted to members of the family he’s deceiving. In “The East,” just as in that case,  the empathetic transformation is subtle. How Jane handles all of inner struggles makes for a very riveting story.

The multi-talented Marling is terrific as Jane/Sarah and is abetted by a fantastic supporting cast. As Benji, Skarsgård shows less skin, but more acting chops than called upon for his “True Blood” role. Without going over the top he makes his leadership known and reveals a sly, intimidating side. Ellen Page is exceptional as the earnest, all-in Izzie, with secrets of her own. Patricia Clarkson is wonderful as Sarah’s eerily cool boss. As one of the CEOs under fire, Jamey Sheridan shines in a conflicted role. Finally, Jason Ritter turns in a very good, understated performance as Jane’s in-the-dark boyfriend.

“The East” never lectures. The film lets the actors do the speaking for it…and admirably so.

3 nuggets out of 4

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