by Joshua Barrie, published on July 3, 2013|
Watching The East feels a bit like seeing some of the Occupy protestors use Starbucks WIFI or sneak off for a Tesco meal deal. Its got good intentions and poses a formed, challenging message. But ultimately it falls down at points and seems hollow, a little whitewashed.
Zal Batmanglij, who directs, has an eye for beautiful filmmaking that much is certain. And the characters do feel a weighty, well construed breed at times. The plot, too, is not only veganism and world biting. There are poignant messages and likeable elements.
However, as time moves on and it all gets a little loose, naïve and lacklustre in ways the originality and fighting spirit is lost amid whimsical notions and an underwhelming feeling overcomes you. Maybe its just because hippies are annoying.
The cool Brit Marling (who also helped write and produce) plays Jane Owen, later the undercover Sarah, hired by a private espionage firm led by and must infiltrate a threatening anarchist group called The East that is causing mischief. Its members are attacking those nasty corporations who are rapidly corrupting and dismantling our world. This, effectually, is spot on I suppose. Its real, relevant and welcomed.
Benji (Peter Skarsgard) is the freegan anti-capitalist. He and his compatriots believe in a righteous world and would never touch a McDonalds. Nor would I, but you know a film isnt working out at the end when you feel as if you may not be cemented on their side. And thats certainly not because Im a corporation-loving, war-supporting money-grabber. Its just because The East is lacking in cynicism and thrill as it goes on. Without drive there is no cause, however ethical.
The flick is well made in parts and follows a nice plan. Batmanglij and Marling have created a fairly good watch; its worthwhile. But it by no means ticks all the boxes it should have.