The East (3 stars)

The East

Director Zal Batmanglij returns with moody action drama co-written with Brit Marling

Director Zal Batmanglij follows his so-so cult-based thriller Sound of My Voice with another moody into-the-lion's-den story, co-written once again with star Brit Marling.

Marling plays Sarah Moss, a former FBI agent now working for private intelligence firm Hiller Brood. A woman of initiative and determination, she's sent by her ruthless boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) to infiltrate a small band of perceived eco-terrorists known as The East, a group who enact crimes of retribution against reckless corporations. They’re led by the brooding Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) with members Izzy (Ellen Page) and resident medic Doc (Toby Kebbell).

Batmanglij's direction is for the most part fluid and assured and The East is often provocative and passionate, yet squeezing the subject matter into the mould of a thriller sometimes results in a rushed, heavy handed approach to the themes. It's largely well cast and Page in particular finds moments to shine, but -- despite disclosing individual motivations -- the writers never quite get under the skin of these characters, or fully to grips with the complexity of the situation. The East asks, in the end quite literally, what kind of person would do a job like Sarah's? Fatally, it fails to deliver a satisfactory answer.

Screening at Cineworld, Thu 20 June & Sun 23 Jun, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013. Limited release from Fri 28 Jun.

The East Official Trailer

The East

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • US / UK
  • 1h 56min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Zal Batmanglij
  • Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page
  • UK release: 28 June 2013

A spy is sent in to infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists. However, when she falls for the group's charismatic leader she finds her loyalties tested.