“The East” is a movie at a crossroads about people on the same crossroad. Directed by Zal Batmanglij, “The East” stars Brit Marling (who also co-wrote the film) as a former FBI agent turned operative for a private security firm—which represents major pharmaceutical companies—who infiltrates an anarchist collective called the east.
Led by a cult-like figure played by Alexander Skarsgard, the east goes to extreme lengths to stop these major companies and give them a taste of their own medicine (literally). Marling finds herself immersed in a new world with a different approach to life; one that ultimately complicates her own view on things, and as she gets closer to Skarsgard and Ellen Page, another radical leader within the group, the more she identifies with them.
The film works very hard to not sway the viewer to one point of view and tries with all its might to keep them in the middle. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it doesn’t.
It’s the same old story really: the little guys versus the big bad corporations. Only in this situation, the little guys aren’t always doing the right thing and it becomes increasingly hard to justify their behavior.
For their part, both Batmanglij and Marling do their best to convey the complicated nature of this sort of debate, but it never really feels two-sided. There’s always a pervading idea that what the east are doing is wrong but it never feels wrong like it’s supposed to feel. But it’s certainly not without its merit and there’s a lot to like in the film. “The East” is a film about two types of criminals but doesn’t always want to treat them as such.
“The East” opens today in select theaters.