run time: 116 mins
considered: Drama, Thriller
director: Zal Batmanglij
starring: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Aldis Hodge, Danielle Macdonald, Patricia Clarkson, Hilary Baack, Jason Ritter, Julia Ormond, Billy Magnussen, Wilbur Fitzgerald, John Neisier, Jamey Sheridan
movie summary: American corporate greed has reached an all-time high so a bunch of rogue citizens have come together to form a group called The East. Their main goal is to sabotage the CEOs of these companies that kill thousands of innocent people while destroying the environment any chance they get. Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) is a promising agent for a private intelligence company that helps protect high-profile people for groups that target them. Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) assigns Sarah to infiltrate the group and get as much information as possible so they can figure who the group plans to target. Sarah leaves her boyfriend at the airport for a trip to Dubai, after he drives away she ditches all her business clothes and hops in a cab to begin her mission.
While walking the streets in dirty clothes and a backpack Sarah, now going under the name of Jane Owen, meets a group of drifters who hop on a train into Pittsburgh. The group get busted by the cops when a guy named Luca (Shiloh Fernandez) rescues Jane after she flees out of their handcuffs. The pair go dumpster diving and while he’s gone she searches his car to find clues that he is a member of The East. She cuts herself so he will have taken her somewhere safe to help he. They drive to the woods where she is blindfolded and led down a long passage through the trees to a house in the middle of nowhere. Jane meets a guy named Doc (Toby Kebbell), who treats her for her wound and then drugs her so she passes out. After she wakes up she is greeted by Eve (Hillary Baack), who is deaf, they sign with each other before Eve takes Jane to dinner where she meets the rest of the group. Benji (Alexander Skarsgard) is the leader while his unofficial second in command is Izzy (Ellen Page), together the pair plan and execute attacks that they call “jams”.
The group is busy planning their next attack when Eve leaves the group and is never heard from again. Jane offers to take Eve’s place because they took her in and treated her wound. The group agrees to let Jane join in the “jam” before they go separate ways and clean up. They meet again to travel into the city to attend a fancy dinner party where they plan to poison every one in attendance. Jane is horrified with the plan but has no choice but to go through with it because her cover could be blown if she bails. After the “jam” the group learn that the government is closing in on them so they disband for a few weeks which allow Sarah to return to work to rely all the information she has gathered. Benji calls the gang together for another attack so Sarah returns and develops romantic feelings for him.
Izzy takes the lead on the next “jam” because it involves her parents. When the gang kidnap her parents they bring the couple to the power planet that is responsible for populating the local waters. After a long standoff and argument the cops show up and a firefight breaks out causing a member of The East to be gunned down. The remaining survivors try their best to regroup but the incident has caused a lot of stress and frustration in the group and Benji decides to disband again. Sarah returns to her normal life which isn’t all that normal anymore. She can’t get over what she has witnessed with the group and her new feelings for Benji. Just when she’s ready to move on with her life Benji calls the group together for one more “jam”.
my thoughts: This movie came out in 2013 and I skipped it during it’s very limited run at the theatres. I was dying to see it because Brit Marling wrote, produced, and starred in it. She’s one of my favourite actresses because of her talent and beauty. As I sit here to type this review I really feel like I need to watch it again because it seems like I missed certain clues throughout the two-hour long movie because I didn’t see the ending coming. The East is just another spy movie with a unique twist in the storyline that was really intriguing to watch.
This is going to sound bias but Marling stole the show. She plays two completely different characters in the movie and not once does she confuse the two or get caught up in the drama that each character brings to the overall story. She’s not a gun carrying spy agent like the typical role would call for, but has a cell phone and the ability to extract knowledge without making herself overly obvious. She wasn’t selected for the job because of her streets skills but because of her ability to blend into her surroundings and see the job through to the very end. Marling’s character comes to realize the deep dark secrets of the corporate world from her experiences with The East. Those experience will force her to change her perception of things and seek out the answers to do the right thing, not something you would usually see in a spy flick.
One of the other main character is Ellen Page’s Izzy character, she has a few personal demons she’s trying to cope with but she puts The East first in her life and is willing to do whatever it takes to pull off a “jam”. Izzy comes from a rich family that has made its fortune off the death of hundreds which is the driving force behind her anger to see all things corporate come crumbling down. Together Izzy and Jane form an unlikely friendship due to their polar opposite personalities and the fact Izzy never really trusts the new girl. Just to be that guy, the best part of the movie actually involves both of them and that’s all I can tell you about the scene.
Alexander Skarsgard gets his acting talents from his dad, Stellan Skarsgard, which is a great thing to see as the leader of The East. He’s always hands on during the “jams” but is more the brains behind the whole operation. He spends a lot of time alone around the house or in the woods just thinking and planning so that when the time comes he’s ready. He begins to fall for Jane despite the fact he knows nothing about her. He’s not willing to risk the group’s future or his life for the relationship but is willing to give her a chance to prove her worth to the group and see how things progress from there.
There were a few slow parts, like every spy movie, that had me worried that this was going to turn out to be a bad in the end. Those moments would go away when the group gets back together and start planning their next “jam”. I didn’t see the end coming but it fits with the storyline and teases the possibility of a sequel. The best part of the film is the abilities of the three leading stars keep us engaged throughout the movie as they continue to spread their message of doing the right thing.
my final thoughts: When someone mentions a spy movie most people would say that the story would involve one or more gun fights and big stars. The East is a smart cunning movie that doesn’t use many guns or famous people to get its message across. By no means your typical spy movie, The East is a worth a watch thanks to outstanding performances and unique concept.
my star rating: 8 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 74% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 2 out 4