When young, ambitious Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) is hired by an elite private intelligence firm, she is immediately sent on a dangerous undercover assignment. Infiltrating an anarchistic activist group called "The East", Sarah must take part as the group terrorises corporate leaders who seem to get away with crimes against humanity. But the more the group's activities escalate, the more Sarah's life is in danger.
For those of you who were fortunate enough to see one of Brit Marling’s early performances in the Sundance acclaimed the Sound of my Voice, the tense and imaginative eco-thriller the East is bound to spark your interest. Reunited with Voice director Zal Batmanglij Marling returns to our screens as a secret operative tasked to infiltrate a fundamentalist environmental group whose specialism includes covert attacks on dirty corporate companies.
As somewhat of an eco-warrior I found my interest instantly peaked by the film’s opening footage of an intruder breaking into a grand, yet heavily guarded, house intercut with what can only assume to be genuine footage of endangered Artic animals drowning in oil. The emotional connection that more and more people in Western society are beginning to feel towards the environment is used to Batmanglij’s advantage here as his star Marling finds herself torn between her orders and her morals and the inherent suspense so akin to that of the Sound of my Voice is complimented by a deeper, and in my opinion, more complex character driven dilemma.
Though the Sound of my Voice received little notice outside of Sundance the East has a far more user friendly feel to it; the addition of Ellen Page and the gorgeous and utterly mesmerizing Alexander Skarsgard (vampire Eric Northman in HBO’s True Blood) help with this significantly, drawing the audience into the situation and confusing their moral compass along the way.
What impressed me most about the East was its ability to lift the banner of eco-consciousness without coming across as preachy or self righteous; far from it, this film is a thriller at its heart and it is this aspect of it that holds your interest from start to finish.