Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, violence, some disturbing images, sexual content and partial nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 31, 2013 Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Timely and provocative is the latest collaboration between director Zal Batmanglij and star/co-writer Brit Marling (Arbitrage, Another Earth).
The East is the more commercially minded follow-up to their thoughtful "Sound of My Voice" as Marling, through her Sarah, trades places in a way with her character from that movie.
The briskly moving film, also costarring Julia Ormond (also seen on the AMC original series Mad Men) and Patricia Clarkson as a no-nonsense corporate honcho, plays with the sympathies in a morally relativistic way that allows for viewer interest, at least for a while.
An underground, eponymous collective which vows to take on the iniquities or "malfeasance" of those apparently doing their share of harm to humanity as well as nature is investigated by Sarah, an intelligence agent of an elite private firm. Soon enough she's brought into some troubling complexities for some that may again rival what dilemmas were faced in more indie-minded pics like Martha Marcy May Marlene which starred Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes.
The tweaking that corporate clientele go through may carry a certain fascination with it and a somewhat exciting espionage meller is fashioned with polarizing charge around shadowy underground organizations. The East has Alexander Sarsgaard (Melancholia) as the handsome savvy leader Benji whom Sarah gets closer to and Ellen Page (Hard Candy, Inception) as Izzy, a rival for Benji's affections.
Some characters may drop out of sight for a good chunk of time before reappearing or not as the overall storyline in construction and execution doesn't really churn out compelling cinema (in realizing the greater potential of its premise). The way Sarah is assimilated into the dynamic may begin to elucidate a few of logical shortcomings. The East still has a febrile esprit for the zeitgeist and demonstrates that Batmanglij and Marling have enough power in their voice and vision to stir a collective (at least leftist) consciousness.