If you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen them all. But you should, and The East opens Friday exclusively at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, 2501 W. Memorial.
The title refers to an underground group of ecological terrorists led by the scruffy Benji (Alexander Skarsgård, TV’s True Blood). He and his followers — most notably Izzy (Ellen Page, Inception) — exact revenge on corporate fat cats who knowingly profit off immoral actions, whether made against the environment or its populace.
When the film opens, The East’s masked members are making a nighttime raid on the home of an energy company CEO, filling its halls with oil in retaliation for a massive ocean spill for which they hold him responsible. Afterward, via YouTube, the anarchist group warns it will carry out three more “jams” over the next six months; warns Izzy, “We will show no mercy.”
Enter Jane Owen (Marling, Arbitrage), an agent with a secret intelligence firm with no government ties and run by a no-BS boss (Patricia Clarkson, Shutter Island). Its high-dollar clients are the very corporations The East targets. Jane is assigned to infiltrate the group, identify its members and shut it down.
Just as Marling’s previous two films as a triple threat toyed with the conventions of science fiction and redefined what that genre means, this does the same with the thriller. The sophomore feature of Sound of My Voice director Zal Batmanglij specializes in keeping its audience in the dark until the last possible moments, generating considerable unease.
Whereas Sound of My Voice was purposely enigmatic and up to viewers’ interpretation, The East asks no such work beyond full attention. As absorbing and largely unpredictable as it is — a true virtue in this blockbuster age of American cinema — that shouldn’t be taxing. Batmanglij’s hand is more assured this time around as he and Marling expand their scope far beyond their previous collaboration’s basement locale.
If the results aren’t quite as satisfying (Sound nearly topped my list of 2012’s best films), it may be due only to the story feeling
extended by about 15 minutes more than necessary. Still, there’s real
capital-S story there, layered with intrigue and unraveled in a
simmering, slow-burn style. Unlike much the summer season has to offer,
you’ll be thinking about this one long after its end. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• Another Earth film review
• Arbitrage Blu-ray review
• Inception film review
• Oklahoma Gazette‘s Best Films of 2012
• Shutter Island film review
• Sound of My Voice film review
• True Blood: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray review