The East
dir Zal Batmanglij
scr Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
prd Michael Costigan, Jocelyn Hayes, Brit Marling, Ridley Scott
with Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson, Jason Ritter, Julia Ormond, Danielle Macdonald, Aldis Hodge, Jamey Sheridan, Pamela Roylance
release US 31.May.13, UK 28.Jun.13
13/US Fox 1h56
The East
Sticking it to the man: Marling and Skarsgard

page kebbell clarkson
edinburgh film fest
east end film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The East Corporate irresponsibility is such a hot topic that this film almost feels more like a documentary than a thriller. At least until the fictional plot takes over. The story holds our interest because of the big issues at hand rather than the cold-fish characters.

Corporate-security spy Jane (Marling) is assigned by her boss (Clarkson) to infiltrate eco-terrorist group The East to prevent them from attacking one of their clients. Jane tells her boyfriend (Ritter) that she's going on a business trip then goes undercover, worming her way into the anarchists' inner sanctum. The de facto leader is Benji (Skarsgard), assisted by the helpful Doc (Kebbell), flamboyant Luca (Fernandez) and prickly Izzy (Page), who takes awhile to warm to Jane. And as Jane proves a valuable member of the team, she's invited on a series of high-profile jams.

These attacks involve serving corporate bosses with a dose of their own medicine, literally so in the cast of a pharmaceutical giant that's peddling dangerous drugs. There's also an oil company boss whose home gets its own spill, and a couple of mining execs forced to swim in a toxic lake. Frankly, none of these actions seems that horrific, as the activists are basically just making an important point. Even the fact that they survive on perfectly good food they harvest from rubbish bins challenges our compacency.

But filmmaker Batmanglij and his cowriter Marling spice things up with relational drama, none of which remotely takes off. Part of this is due to the film's glassy style, as well as characters' limited depth. Marling is solid but as icy as ever, which makes her gurgling romance with the earthier, more openly emotional Skarsgard feel like a non-starter. Page gazes at Marling with lusty desire, but never expresses anything beyond subtext. By contrast, Izzy's confrontational with her father (Sheridan) is stunning.

Essentially, all of the actors are merely playing shades of colour to fill in the background of Jane's personal journey to ethical enlightenment. Which is a far too obvious way for the story to go. It essentially obliterates all ambiguity by leaving us in no doubt about how we should feel about these issues. On the other hand, it's fairly cut and dried: these rather too-realistic companies are evil.

cert 15 themes, violence, sexuality 3.Jun.13

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