The themes of “The East” are inarguably current, but it is the film’s execution that allows it to feel timeless. Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling can boast their independent roots, but the film feels like a marriage of independent sensibilities and studio ways. The film isn’t breaking any new ground, but is that really a bad thing? Despite an unfortunate end credits sequence, “The East” is a thriller that will hold you close and leave you aching for the next moment, managing to stay a few strides ahead of a pack of mundanity.
» Derek Deskins, The Lonely Reviewer
Equally impressive is Ellen Page’s portrayal of Izzy, one of The East’s more active members. While the immensely likeable Page starts out as cold and distant, she eventually gives her role a soul, especially during one of the more shocking and sad twists toward the conclusion of the mystery. Original, bold and full of thought-provoking ideas, “The East” works as a combination of wonderfully trippy entertainment and a statement involving morality. Be prepared to keep thinking about some of the messages long after the movie is complete.
» David Dixon, The Daily Aztec
Despite the fanaticism of The East, which can lead an audience to condemn their actions as much as its does the corporations that poison us, this film satisfies mostly from its capacity as a thriller. B+
» Harvey Karten, Shockya.com
The East is still a compelling portrait of what gets lost (and found) when a cause becomes an obsession. B+
» Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
It’s too much a movie of “types,” and loses track of story elements that would seem important enough to warrant further exploration. The whole Christian conservative law-and-order mantle feels like a fuzzy afterthought on Jane, forgotten far too soon. But “The East” offers a lot to chew on and keeps the viewer on the same fence as Sarah, as bad things happen to bad people, and to “good” people — the dilettantes who see themselves as do-gooders but get just as down and dirty as those corporations they seek to punish. 3 out of 4
» Roger Moore, Movie Nation
Eventually it’s go time, and if The East loses a little steam on the grounds of action mechanics (a skill these plots always require), it’s never dumb on the subject of covert allegiances. Coming in our moment of recent domestic terror, the movie has a boldness in diving into the whys of political violence. These activists aren’t clowns, even if they sometimes bicker like a disorganized family. 4 out of 5
» Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
'The East' is the type of movie that with further thinking, you may like it more. That's what happened to me personally. I saw this movie back in April, and after the film my father and I had a pretty deep conversation about what we had both seen. This is a film that will spark up many conversations, and for good reason too. There are things I picked up on days after seeing the film. This is THE thinker's movie of 2013. Not only is this film thrilling and engaging, but it's also thought provoking and stellar. Big props go out to Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij for writing, starring, and directing in this movie. There are scenes that are strange but intriguing, as well as scenes that may have you scratching your head. 'The East' is one of those movies that requires multiple viewings in order to fully process it. I, for one, can't wait to go see this film again. 4 out of 4
» Zachary Marsh, The Film Wizard's Movie Reviews
Marling and Batmanglij previously collaborated on “Sound of My Voice,” an edgy cult drama, and the contemplative sci-fi thinker “Another Earth.” As the cracklingly cool “The East” shows, they’re the real deal. It’s not easy to make a thriller where brains and guts are so clearly in cahoots. 4 out of 5
» Joe Neumaier, NY Daily News
"The East" is a provocative industrial espionage thriller that pits counterculture revolutionaries intent on exposing corporate villainy against the undercover intelligence specialists paid exceedingly well to keep their compromised clientele clean. By spicing up a complex morality tale marked by sophisticated themes with down and dirty back stabbing and betrayals, the movie turns corporate malfeasance into a spy game that is entertaining without being dumbed down. [...] As the stakes rise and Sarah's choices become more dicey, the philosophical balancing act is harder to pull off. Near the end, their footing gets a little shaky. But for the most part, "The East" is a dizzying cat and mouse game with all sorts of moral implications.
» Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
The acting is top-tier all the way. Page brims with ferocity and feeling, notably in a piercing scene with her estranged father. And Marling and Skarsgard nail every nuance in locating the secret hearts of characters who pride themselves on revealing nothing. The film’s climax may be clunky and unsatisfying, but it takes us to where the film’s been heading all along, a moral abyss. You leave The East with a hunger to know more and a good idea of where to look. For Marling and Batmanglij that counts as mission accomplished. For audiences, it’s that rare thing these days – a movie that matters. 3 out of 4
»Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"The East" is a treat for individuals tired of summer blockbusters. Among the high-octane thrillers that move quick enough to cover their plot holes, “The East’s” distributor, Fox Searchlight, is brave in releasing a film that steers away from that archetype. “The East” is briskly paced, intelligently written and realistically frightening.
» Zack Grullon, Washington Square News
[The East is a] Gripping, intelligent and deeply socially conscious thriller — a singular combination — that hits the bull’s-eye both for satisfying entertainment and timely relevance.
» David Noh, Film Journal International
The East is essentially a very entertaining movie for general viewers. It has got the pace to keep you interested throughout. The tension that builds up looks genuine and the proof is that you might hold your breath in many sequences. They do not try to fool the audience based on tricky editing, and appealing sound effects. It is all organic which settles deep inside to make it all look natural. Despite of so many good qualities The East possesses, there are things that could have been improved. There was no room for proper development of the character to start with. So many things were happening that it did not allow much space. Then, it could have gone into the roots of emotions set deep inside but it touches just the surface. The most underwhelming thing was the climax of the movie. The overall package of The East is enough to thrill the audience. With certain improvements it could have however reached to a better position. Watch this if you like watching action thrillers with mystery.
» India, Ripe Movies
While The East is smart and character-driven, it's also an exciting thriller, well-paced and entrancing—perhaps the influence of producer Ridley Scott. It's a film worth putting the politics aside for, in order to pay attention to amazing characterizations of a cult, the gentle acting, strong dialoge, and intellectual themes—all surprisingly and stubbornly subtle in the face of this unsubtle plot.
» Maggie Lange, Gawker
The East possesses a smart social conscience, emotionally picking apart the personal trauma of the victim warriors within the group to explicate how they came to think that doing evil to punish evil is the only legitimate way to forge positive progress. Co-writers Batmanglij and Marling effectively evaluate different approaches to civil disobedience, always emphatically on the side of the preyed upon but never losing sight of how cruelly dealt retribution may unintentionally steal away the humanity all of us need in true heroes.
» Lane Scarberry, Sound On Sight
Movies such as The East are not meant to present sides of an issue as black and white. Through Marling’s character we can see how one can personally identify with The East, even if their form of justice is quite illegal. It is a debate that rages in our society currently, with no end in sight. And don’t look for The East to provide any answers. If anything, the debate only gets as murky and thick as an oil spill. Our The East review cannot recommend this film enough. Marling is a force of nature and it is a delight to see her shine her talent on the natural world and what we as a species are doing to it. 4.5 out of 5.0
» Joel D. Amos, Movie Fanatic
The East is a challenging movie that could prove divisive amongst the passionately political, but to get caught up in the film’s politics is to miss its point -- that humans are complicated creatures whose beliefs can evolve with the information we’re given (or that’s withheld from us), and that those changing viewpoints can have a transformative effect on the way we live our day-to-day lives. If that sounds a bit too heady for a night at the cinema, it should be noted that The East is also a crackling thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last second. 3 out of 4
» Jason Buchanan, TV Guide
The East is a well-crafted thriller that has a few issues here and there, largely with pacing as the 116 minute running time isn't really necessary, but overall it's a film that makes you think and offers some thrills as well. I'm now curious to learn what group Marling and Batmanglij will be infiltrating with their next film to complete the trilogy. B-
» Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon
Watery plot and unconvincing characters sink what could have been, maybe with a different script, a smartly made movie. 2 out of 4
» John Anderson, Newsday
The film’s handling of issues also can’t help but feel rather thin as well. Even without succumbing to lengthy monologues, the film could have engaged with its ethical issues with greater insight. That missing insight only makes the titular collective more generic. These issues are not helped by the film’s final 20 minutes, which rushes through a number of developments in order to set up its open-ended (and rather pat) conclusion. Somewhere in The East are the seeds of a great, morally complex thriller, one that Marling and Batmanglij will hopefully make in the near future. As the next step in the pair’s evolution as storytellers, however, it can’t help but come up short, even with its more polished aesthetic. The East has competence to spare, yet not nearly enough that is truly exceptional. 3 out of 5
» Jordan Baker, Cineplex Entertainment
The East is the kind of film that says a lot more with a whisper then it does with a scream, and while people may not be able to look past what the film’s ultimate message, in it’s quieter moments all of the emotional punches hit their marks.
» Dave Voigt, Dork Shelf
“The East” is a pretty taut thriller. Will Sarah get exposed before she gets the information her boss wants? And how much of her growing sympathy for the group’s arguments is based on reason, as opposed to her physical attraction to Benji? Marling and Batmanglij are also interested in the moral questions the film raises. Are violent means justified if the end is good? And how much violence? When does deterrence cross the line to spite? With the exception of Benji, the members of The East aren’t ideologues so much as idealists. They allow themselves the luxury of debate, questioning and regret. Also hope. It’s for these reasons that “The East” satisfies, in ways that Marling’s earlier vehicles didn’t. Its head is in the clouds, but its feet are grounded in reality. 3 out of 4
» Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
The film’s ongoing tension is nicely provided by Jane/Sarah’s never-ending quest to hide her true identity. However that becomes further complicated when she gradually begins to become intrigued by the mission of her erstwhile cohorts in The East — whom she initially set out to expose and destroy. While the development of a not-unexpected romance between Benji and Jane/Sarah adds a further complication, the character’s eventual conflicted emotions likely would have arisen anyway. It is that conflict that becomes the crux of “The East,” and it provides a nice twist to this very contemporary tale as it moves to its satisfying and highly believable conclusion. 3 out of 45
» Bill Zwecker, Chicago Sun-Times
If you want more “bang for your buck” go see something else this summer, because that is not what The East sets out to do. However, if you want a film that can keep you thinking with a cast that actually acts out the script, I highly recommend this film. 4 out of 5
» Paul Dennis, News Register Online
The East presents no moral dilemma to the viewer, only to Marling’s character who realizes she may want to belong with the very group she’s infiltrating. The problem is, this group is a fringe cult. They make real cults look bad. They live by the seat of their pants and have no real purpose for doing anything other than revenge. Their focus us unclear and disorganized. D
» Justin Taroli, Lists & Grades
As a fable pondering the nature of personal responsibility, The East reflects our endless hypocrisy with absolute clarity. But as an emotional experience — which is why we go to movies in the first place — The East falls flat because we just don’t care about anyone or anything, which may affirm the movie’s bleak message of environmental ambivalence, but fails to light the bonfire of change.
» Katherine Monk, Canada.com
As low-budget dramas go, The East is technically proficient, and occasionally impressive, in every way, and I wouldn’t say the film ever sinks below the point of watchability. But its political and thematic goals are handled so poorly, with the actual dramatic weight of the piece disappearing as a result, that the film ultimately has very little to offer. I still think Batmanglij and Marling show promise as writers, and Batmanglij can be a sharp, perceptive director, but The East is a leaden and labored misfire, one undeserving of attention in a summer with so many other creatively successful pictures. The East is a wooden and unappealing chore, treading familiar ground for the filmmakers with an additional layer of clunky, drama-killing political soap-boxing. 2,5 out of 5
» Jonathan R. Lack, WeGotThisCovered
Director Zal Batmanglij, working from a script he co-wrote with Marling, keeps the pace at a feverish pitch. The “jam” sequences are full of shocks and suspense that exploit our own conflicts over the group’s actions. We’re alternately rooting for them and hoping that a few of the targets can escape unharmed. But the film also works during the quiet times as Sarah’s eyes are opened to some of the world’s cruelties. This is one of the few thrillers that should inspire some great ethical discussions after the lights have gone up. THE EAST is exciting, complex, full of fantastic actors, and one of this year’s best films. 4,5 out of 5
» Jim Batts, We Are Movie Geeks
I’m not saying that The East is a bad film. It is certainly well made. The acting is strong across the board. Marling is a strange leading lady, but she has an intriguing, indefinable quality and she’s obviously very talented. I was engaged throughout, and a couple of those early cult scenes are pretty great. The problem is that the film lacks focus. There isn’t much progression to the story once it gets going.
» Sean Lass, Playback:stl
The East, admittedly well written and thought provoking with really beautiful cinematography, is still a CliffsNotes version of eco-criticism. It highlights pertinent, timely issues, but in a way that mirrors my Twitter feed. The biggest takeaway from the film was that maybe it is better to have partners in crime because the feelings of guilt and dismay that will inevitably ensue in the struggle of good and evil will be more subdued.
» Jordan Gass-Poore, Slackerwood
The film avoids simplistic moral judgments and tidy resolutions to deliver something compelling and thoughtful. Ultimately, it concludes there are no easy answers but that doesn’t stop it from asking provocative questions.
» Beth Accomando, KPBS San Diego
A tense thriller always intrigues an audience and The East dabbles in cult life, environmental activism and has enough of an of-the-moment hook that if its gets into wide enough release, word of mouth might make this a sleeper hit. [...] Great performances from Marling, Ellen Page, and Alexander Skarsgard almost in and of themselves make this worth checking out. [...] For some, the eco-terrorism angle and the perhaps expected bend the film takes with Marling’s character will strike some as providing a mixed message that is incredibly divisive. [...] When it becomes literal and predictable, The East starts to buckle and fray around the edges. For some, it may literally fall apart right before your eyes with a dicey third act. 3,5 out of 5
» Mike Ward, Should I See It
The East combines two movie genres, a deep undercover spy story with a drama that brings social issues to the discussion, specifically targeting the gray areas. [...] Trying to find a neat ending muddies up what was a marvelous little ride and any ambiguity about big businesses, the environment or who the bad guys are in all of this gets undercut by a mismatched end credits sequence that looks like it was borrowed from one of the Bourne movies. Still The East is worth the time spent to see Marling, Skarsgard and Page working together to tell an original, indie-scaled edition of the popular deep cover. It’s a polished and accomplished work, with imperfections, but that’s what’s exciting about investing the time in emerging talents like Batmanglij and Marling. 7,5 out of 10
» Ernie Estrella, BuzzFocus
As much as “The East” is an espionage thriller, whatever genre patterns I might have detected were swept away by the riveting cast performances. Had the actors not created characters every bit as fascinating as the narrative’s subject matter, “The East” would have never reached its maximum potential, and its plot would now be without a soul to guide it. [...] If you ever get the chance to see “The East” in theaters, I insist you do so. It is not only an exciting thriller guaranteed to satisfy your desire for entertainment, but also a humble self-reflection on topics worth pondering.
» Noah S. Lee, The Coast News
Another Brit hit, plus Batmanglij is beginning to show dash as director. The duo make a tight fist of hot topicality and high tension from an ideas-packed genre piece. 4 out of 5
» Kevin Harley, TotalFilm
The East (for all its familiar undercover-cop tropes) intrigues not with good guy-bad guy shtick, but with the conundrum of how to live morally in an inherently immoral West. 3 out of 4
» Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews
What I found especially disturbing about The East is its believability. I have no doubt we will see these types of attacks in the very near future. The East ultimately asks the question we’ll all have to answer when that time comes: where will your loyalties lie? 3,5 out of 4
» Shannon, Film Junk
Whatever flaws it may have, there’s something admirable about the film that Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling have put together. With Alan Pakula’s politically laced thrillers of the seventies in mind, one can only hope they’ll keep bringing forth material as great as this, as The East is already a step up from Batmanglij’s debut Sound of My Voice. 4,25 out of 5
» Juan Barquin, YAM Magazine
The East is beautiful but formulaic when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of standard formula though, and it’s good to see a topical but often bypassed issue take center stage. Marling and Batmaglij are a very fine duo indeed.
» Teri Wolfpants, Cinetalk
Such a thought-provoking film works because of Marling's performance. Instead of going the typical routes of her either staying a hard-nosed defender of the law or falling under the spell of the group's leader, her journey is one of self-discovery and transformation. Marling's reawakening from a no-frills, egotistic go-getter to a concerned soul is revealed through every moment of her solid performance.It helps that she works with Skarsgård and Ellen Page. Their performances are equally strong and that makes for emotional moments that resonate with a deep realness. "The East" is the kind of movie that will alienate those who only see the world in black-and-white terms. It is about people who live in the gray, between light and dark, that's played out and written with great power by Marling. B+
» Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee
The East is a natural progression from many of the ideas presented in Sound of My Voice and feels like the springboard that will launch Marling and Batmanglij into the mainstream. A tense, thoughtful, and compelling film, The East is one of the summer’s few indie, female-centric offerings that’s heavy on ideas and light on computer-generated spectacle.
» FamousMonster, Geeks of Doom
Despite initially promising an exciting and subversive concept, The East is simply a flat and tedious look at the lives of unlikeable eco-hipsters that fails to showcase the readdressing of the balance of power between the social classes. It appears greed really is good. 2 out of 5
» Phil Wheat, Nerdly
A perfectly functional, if somewhat underwhelming thriller, Batmanglij's The East feels all too much like a more grown-up and less naive version of the director's previous outing. Unfortunately, by attempting to appear more serious and mature, the original excitement and imagination has somehow vanished, revealing little more than the hollow shell of two of American cinema's most previously promising prospects. 3 out of 5
» Patrick Gamble, CineVue
In a world where we all can’t help wondering just how much “investigating and infiltrating” is being done these days, “The East” is an exceptionally prescient and smart thriller starring a woman who has now given us some of the more arresting and wily and brainy independent film visions of anyone else around. 3,5 out of 4
» Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News
The movie is full of low-key, effective performances, with Skarsgård especially watchable as a friendly, patient sort of zealot. If you’ve seen Marling carry a film, especially one she co-wrote, you know she prefers to have her characters remain enigmas for as long as possible. Marling plays closed, watchful, smart people who only gradually reveal themselves to others, as Jane/”Sarah” does here, and she’s good at that. B+
» Brittney Cason, Charlotte Observer
Marling and Batmanglij skillfully invests 'The East' with an almost unbearable suspense, combining the emotional dynamics of the group with the kind of top-drawer acting that you’d expect from a cast this stellar. Ellen ‘Juno’ Page is alive with ferocious indignity and clearly unconvinced by Sarah’s skillful infiltration of the group, while the widow spider-like Clarkson effortlessly steals every scene she’s in. Alexander Skarsgård is great as Benji, the unsettling and handsome leader. The film’s ending may be unsatisfying, but only to take us to where the film’s been heading all along, a moral abyss. 'The East' makes you want to know more and gives a good indication of where to look. A rare thing these days – a movie that gives a damn and makes you want to care too.
» Anna Bang, Volt Magazine
Though The East isn't always surprising as it plays with expected suspense and political thriller tropes, it is always engrossing which is more than most films can say. I was with it right from its opening scene up until the frankly terrible flash-forward style ending which gets cold feet about the previously hopeless nihilism and fascinating moral thickets. B
» Nathaniel R., The Film Experience
The finale is equally exciting: Batmanglij delivers a coda which might seem frustratingly banal, yet his full stop only expands on Sarah’s journey for those willing to look. On the whole, The East is another impressive mark on both Batmanglij and Marling’s filmography, who are fast establishing themselves as two of the key members of the American indie scene.
» Evrim Ersoy, Electric Sheep
The East is a conventional thriller, which although not particularly memorable, manages to hold down your attention throughout, telling a good story and blessed with a string of good performances. This may not be one you purchase on DVD, but it’s yet another promising foray into the fledging career of Brit Marling, and we certainly look forward to whichever project she tackles next. 3 out of 5
» Stefan Pape, HeyUGuys
Well-acted and suspenseful, with a great deal of editorial content, this feels a little awkward and earnest, and perhaps not angry enough. 3 out of 5
» Kim Newman, Empire
The East’s treatment of corporate cover-ups of criminal activity cannot help but strike a chord in modern society. The film makes great efforts to remind the viewer of the truths inherent in the story by referencing YouTube and making use of newsreel montages. This technique, however, is inconsistent and in a film that already makes use of several different styles it is perhaps a little unnecessary. Having said this, these criticisms can easily be overlooked as The East is a powerful and riveting film that feels rather unique in contemporary film-making and is a film that not only keeps you guessing, but stays with the you long after leaving the cinema. 8 out of 10
» Holly Turpin, Bring the Noise
The East is far from the powerful masterpiece it wants to be, but charmingly questions the concept of flickering identity; the roots of belief are more to do with personal experiences than one likes to admit. As a thriller with a brain and conscience, it can even find a dramatic climax in a spy eating an apple out of the bin. 7 out of 10
» Nick Chen, The Digital Fix
If The East has a bum note, it's the inclusion of a potential romance between Benji and Sarah that feels rote in an otherwise potent, thoughtful and well-paced thriller. 4 out of 5
» Adam, Seensome
The many, many irritating things about this Fox Searchlight production – yes, that stablemate of our global harbinger of morality, Rupert Murdoch’s News International – detract from the fact that Green politics is deadly serious. The ethics of direct action could be an interesting starting point. This film is pretentious and ill-informed. Forget its faux message, though that is bad enough, it also fails as its action does little to alleviate the long periods of boring, angsty nonsense. 1 out of 5
» Dan Carrier, Camden Review
This anti-corporate espionage thriller is slick and engaging for a while, but in the end leaves you rooting for the bad guy. 3 out of 5
» Henry Barnes, The Guardian
The East isn’t a Baader-Meinhof style affair that details the appeal in attacking consumerist society by any means necessary. The actions of The East are as morally repugnant as the corporations screwing up the planet with nihilistic abandon. Batmanglij’s movie is a level-headed, pragmatic work wary of ranting dogma from both sides. There’s something positively centrist or Third Way about it. Capitalism works as long as it can be held accountable.
» Martyn Conterio, Little White Lies
‘The East’, follows on from Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling's first collaboration, The Sound of My Voice. My hunch is this film will prove another stepping stone for one of independent cinema's great creative teams. There are few films you leave feeling you've just seen a call to action. So do not go west, this summer. Go East. Go now. 5 out of 5
» John Baker and Paul Foreman, Britflicks
Although I didn't entirely fall for The East, it will be interesting to see further collaborations from Batmanglij and Marling. Although the film isn't quite as effective in it's message as say, The Constant Gardener, it certainly raises a lot of questions that should be thought about long after the movie has ended and will pitch at a younger audience who will maybe become more politicised. If it brings these issues to further to the forefront than that's no bad thing.
» Jo, broken shark
What The East does well is engage the brain - something Christopher Nolan keeps in mind when creating cinema for the multiplex - whether that's through tense moments as the group carry out their acts or 'jams' or through Sarah's changing perspective as the film progresses. Throwing in a clever twist once more certainly helps, although perhaps spelt out a little too painstakingly to have the same impact as Sound of My Voice's genuine jaw dropper. Whatever direction Marling takes next, The East shows her film compass is well and truly pointing in the right direction. 3 out of 5
» Dan Clay, Movie Man Dan
Although it might not start any revolutions, The East is a really good underdog movie, definitely worth seeing, combining interesting plot with good characters and some solid acting and directing talent on show.
» Stewart Scott, TVandFilmReview.com
A complicated film (with an oversimplistic ending) for the age of the Occupy Movement, The East probes the ethics of those who would oppose corporate malfeasance through covert action.
» Anton Bitel, Film4