Written by: Ellen Tremiti, Special to CC2K
Fanboy Comics‘ Ellen Tremiti reviews one of the films from Sundance 2013.
The East stars indie darling Brit Marling (Arbitrage, Another Earth) as Sarah, an operative for a private intelligence firm. The firm instructs her to infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists who target major corporations. She locates the group members, who live in an abandoned house in the woods, and she attempts to join them. Each cult member has their own reasons for turning into extremists, which includes Izzy (Ellen Page, Inception, Juno) and the group leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood).
The first third of the film offers decent suspense as Sarah tries to pass herself off as “one of them.” On one of the first missions, Sarah joins the group and attends an event where the others poison drug company executives’ champagne with the company’s own unsafe drug. After that, the eco-terrorist plots continue, but the film loses steam.
The companies and the companies’ products that are targeted seem overly simplified and unimaginative. Any twists and turns are lukewarm at best. Despite some solid performances, the characters don’t really earn their denouement moments, and they are treated with kid gloves. We are supposed to empathize with this group even though they are not likeable. Ergo, the film becomes preachy for reasons that seem completely unnecessary.
Director/writer Zal Batmanglij teamed up again with actress/writer Brit Marling for this eco-thriller. They previously worked on Sound of My Voice together, a thriller that received a lot of positive buzz at Sundance 2011. In Sound of My Voice, a journalist and his girlfriend attempt to infiltrate an exclusive cult whose leader (Brit Marling) professes to be from the future. I attended a WonderCon panel, and I was impressed with what I saw and how the pair created their film under such a tight budget. I have hopes that Batmanglij and Marling will create great work in the future.
The East reportedly had a bigger budget and studio backing, which was made possible because of the quality of Sound of My Voice. The unfortunate result: The East somehow became an overworked film that is also overly traditional.
2 Drugged Champagne Flutes out of 5
Ellen Tremiti is a Contributor for Fanboy Comics, an online conglomerate of geek media, providing its readers with daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts that span the pop culture spectrum. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Ellen and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at www.fanboycomics.net.