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The East
The East movie poster

The East Movie Review

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I have a thing for Brit Marling. She's young, she's attractive, she's a good actress and she picks her projects well, primarily because she tends to write her own projects (on that note, she's a good writer, too). Her latest movie is The East, a thriller in which she reunites with Sound of My Voice co-writer and director Zal Batmanglij.

Like Sound of My Voice, The East is about the infiltration of a criminal group. But whereas the previous effort was about a cult devoted to a woman (played by Marling) who may or may not be from an apocalyptic future, The East is squarely grounded in reality: Marling plays Sarah, an operative at a private intelligence firm who goes undercover to identify members of an activist group that commits criminal, perhaps even terroristic acts, against corporate leaders who they deem have committed crimes against humanity.

Loosely inspired by the Earth Liberation Front, the group believes it is doing good even as it does bad things. Naturally, with the line between right and wrong blurred, Sarah becomes torn in her obligations, especially as she falls under the spell of leader Alexander Skarsgard, as women tend to do when thinking of Alexander Skarsgard. On a grander level, the blurred line sets the stage for a compelling story - unfortunately one that never fully clicks into gear.

The East is a well made movie with interesting characters, an intriguing plot and good acting. With a fast pace and several story turns, The East is largely unpredictable and entertaining.

Still, I wish it had amounted to something more. For the first two acts, the movie feels very intimate - it's about a woman seeking to identify and befriend others, even if she has ulterior intentions - but it needed to broaden its scope as the climax approached. The East is about a national terrorist organization, but the events that occur remain small and ultimately shrug worthy.

As good as it is, The East doesn't make the case why anyone should care. The story just isn't very memorable, which is less than can be said for Marling's previous efforts - namely Sound of My Voice and Another Earth.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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