If youve seen one, you havent seen them all. But you should, and The East unjustly ignored in theaters earlier this summer amid such competition as Man of Steel, This Is the End and World War Z is now available on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. It's still one of the 10 best films I've seen all year.
The title refers to an underground group of ecological terrorists led by the scruffy Benji (Alexander Skarsgård, Disconnect). He and his followers most notably Izzy (Ellen Page, Super) 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 Easts 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, Easy A). 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 Marlings 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 a feeling heightened at home, where the experience is more intimate.
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 shouldnt be taxing. Batmanglijs hand is more assured this time around as he and Marling expand their scope far beyond their previous collaborations basement locale.
If the results arent quite as satisfying (Sound nearly topped my list of 2012s best films), it may be due only to the story feeling extended by about 15 minutes more than necessary. Still, theres real capital-S story there, layered with intrigue and unraveled in a simmering, slow-burn style. Unlike its seasonal competition, youll be thinking about this one long after its end. Rod Lott
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