The East is an intelligent thriller focussing on an underground Eco Terrorist cell-The East of the title- who aim to disable giant pharmaceutical corporations who they believe are treating human fatalities as mere collateral damage whilst also destroying the environment at the same time. That is if they consider either of these things at all. Directed by Zal Batmanglij and featuring stand out performances from Alexander Sklarsgard- Eric Northman in HBO’S True Blood franchise- and Brit Marling with strong support from Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell and Patricia Clarkson. Creating its own pace and allowing tension and intrigue to build up along the way it is no one dimensional plot line but instead opens up moral and ethical debates with no clear resolution sought or offered.
At the core of the drama is Sarah Moss- Marling- a former federal agent who takes on undercover role in an attempt to expose and eventually halt a terrorist cell known as The East. Their motivation is to expose the unethical practices carried out by big corporations in their ongoing desire to increase profits with little or no regard to side effects or even eventual deaths the use of their products result in. After inveigling herself with the cell Sarah then finds her own motives and beliefs highly questionable and begins to sympathise with The East’s claims that these companies should be held to task.
Along the way she becomes emotionally entangled with their charismatic and handsome self appointed leader Benji- Skarsgard- and finds her loyalties divided. Like most of his recruits Benji comes from a privileged background and this allows him and his cohorts a way of infiltrating the higher echelons of the firms on their hit list more than if they were from blue collar backgrounds. Despite being swayed by their rhetoric and proof that much wrong doing is going on Sarah is still unable to condone some of their more extreme acts of violence and instead seeks some other way of doling out retribution.
The chemistry between all the actors on show is totally convincing with Skarsgard, Page and Marling all interacting with each other especially well. The only weak scene is near its conclusion when Sarah defends the terrorists’ actions to her boss revealing in the processes that she has been indoctrinated by their beliefs and immediately raising her suspicions.. It is played out a little too heavily handed and is far too obvious and loses much of the subtle impact of the film thus far. However this is a minor complaint and it is an interesting film which never lets up and at its conclusion allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions and make up their own minds as to who holds the higher moral ground. If anyone.
The East is showing at Cineworld on Thursday 20th June at 6pm and Sunday 23 June at 1.15pm.