Friday, June 7, 2013

 

The East

The East official site The first collaboration between writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/producer/actress Brit Marling is a compelling thriller "Sound of My Voice," about a couple who infiltrate into a cult. That terrific film sets expectation high for their subsequent work as a team. Their second film is another suspensive espionage thriller "The East" (USA 2013 | 116 min.). Although this film is not as impressive as their previous film, it doesn't disappoint either with its engaging storytelling and fine performances.

After leaving FBI, athletic and intelligent Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) starts a new career as a secret top-agent in an elite private intelligence firm, whose clients are the most prominent global corporations. After a radical anarchist group, "The East," revenges toward a few big corporations' executives for the damages these corporation cause to the environment, Sarah is deployed by her chilling boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) to infiltrate the group in order to find out the group's next "jam."

With her exceptional ability, Sarah soon gains the trust from the group, including the group's leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) as well as other devoted members such as idealistic Izzy (Ellen Page), brainy Doc (Toby Kebbell), and street smart Luca (Shiloh Fernandez).

After Sarah's undercover operation goes deeper, she must confront the conflict between her moral consciousness and her "professional" responsibility.

The East official site

The film takes us to a thrilling ride when Sarah first gets close to the group. Even the East surprisingly looks like a secretive cult, the film is quite clever in letting us resonate with the group members' rage toward greedy corporations, and it sympathetically lays out moral justification for the group's actions. That makes the Sarah Moss character more complex and intriguing. You can't help but asking yourself: "What would I do if I were in Sarah's position?"

Even the story and the characters are fascinating at first, the film seems to lose its grip later on. It would have been more condense and convincing if the Sarah's dilemma remains the focal point of the film. Instead, the film adds distracting subplots such as the one concerning Benji.

Brit Marling is extraordinary in the film. Not only her performance is terrific, but also her striking beauty stands out. Even when she is hanging out with the members of "The East," she looks more like a model jumping off the pages from a fashion magazine while everybody else looks like homeless transients on the streets in San Francisco.

Despite the interesting characters and story, the film seems unable to escape the shadow of "Sound of My Voice." There is a remarkable resemblance between the two films: both stories are about undercover infiltration; both films have a group like a cult; both groups have a mysterious leader; and even both films have a scene when they sit together doing weird thing to bond.

However, if you remove that shadow by forgetting the "Sound of My Voice" for a moment (or have not seen it), this satisfying thriller stands alone just fine.

"The East," a Fox Searchlight Pictures release, opens on Friday, June 7, 2013 in San Francisco Bay Area.

Writer/director Zal Batmanglij, actress Ellen Page, and actor Alexander Skarsgård will appear in three Bay Area Q&As on Saturday, June 8th, 2013.


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