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The Cinephile Report Review: The East
by Jake Harrison Miller, published on June 22, 2013
Tonight I took a stroll down to my local art cinema and purchased an admission ticket for The East. What I was expecting from this film was completely different from what I actually had gotten. I was expecting a blunt, political exaggeration. What I really experienced was an opaque film that you never fully understand. It is as if you are just to be a witness, sort of like the narrative of the main character. Zal Batmanglij (writer/director) and Brit Marling (co-writer/lead) have given us a film similar to their previous, Sound of My Voice. However, the barriers here are merely fractured.
Jane Owen (Brit Marling), whos a believer in christ, is an operative chosen to go undercover and investigate an eco-terrorist group that is calling themselves The East. The group is known for targeting large corporations and devising what some would call pranks, although The East consider it justice. Jane now assumes the identity of Sarah Moss and begins her journey by traveling afoot and grouping with stray teens and twenty-somethings hoping to be led to wherever The Easts headquarters is. Not long after beginning her trek she discovers what she is looking for, soon finding herself on the fence about whose side she is really on.
The East certainly offers entertainment, although fulfillment must not be in its vocabulary. Just as you gain an understanding on what is taking place, it seems to trail off into its cliche ending. Only leaving you with what you know of its characters, which was the most developed and admirable part of the film. You are able to witness where they come from and why they participate in the things that they do, and in most parts you may find yourself agreeing with them, feeling much like the main character Sarah (Brit Marling). I say her fake name, Sarah, because Jane becomes a different person when she becomes involved with The East.
Brit Marling offers a solid performance. Providing the sense of discomfort along with curiosity that the taut character needed. Alexander Skarsgard plays a role you would usually associate with one of his past films, for instance, Straw Dogs . A character that , deep down, you feel you should not trust, and end up falling in his scheme. Although, for his character in The East, youre not so sure there is a scheme. Ellen Page gave us a strong performance for what little of screen time she had. One of my favorite characters in the film was Doc, played by Toby Kebbell. He held a strong account in the film and his acting was superb. You obtain sorrowful emotions from his character and, as a reaction, you find yourself attached to him and want more.
The films visuals were well-suited for its approach. The film was filled with grim skies and melancholic shots of forestry and fields. Cinematography is a big part of films. Although I do not know much about how things work in photography, I know how a film should be perceived and this one hit its mark.
Besides the ending, The East offers an interesting tale with many purposely dug holes for you to fill with your imagination of what it all REALLY means. I found it to be an obvious hit on large corporations, and maybe even religion. Brit Marlings character recites a prayer in the film that I feel poses a message. However, no matter the message, this movie can be for the complex minded or even the people who just want to see an intense thriller.