The East Screen 11 articles

The East

2013

The East Poster
  • This is sort of an action film, with The East planning their activities with “Ocean’s Eleven” meticulousness, but there’s no punch or suspense to these sequences. Benji and the gang come off like the same kind of idiots as the animal activists led by Brad Pitt in “Twelve Monkeys,” but there’s no joke intended.

  • This absurdly superficial and tendentious drama, directed with no distinction, wastes a superb cast in the interest of self-righteous attitudinizing... A few action scenes offer baseline suspense, but the story, the context, and the characters are all stuck at the surface of the filmmakers’ proud intentions.

  • Batmanglij and Marling are the cinema's foremost adapters of stoned college freshman conspiracy theories. I also cannot believe a film would actually, earnestly depict that old parable of both hell and heaven being filled with utensils that people cannot use, but that in heaven everyone feeds each other, and expect people to do anything but let their eyes roll until the end of time.

  • The narrative arc is identical [to Sound of My Voice]—the straight-laced protagonist loses her resolve and comes to sympathize with the strange, messianic group—and the activist characters are so sketchy that they seem just like the cultists from Voice.

  • The structure suggests slow indoctrination, but Marling's writing and acting are so opaque that her character's decisions come off as completely arbitrary. She excels at expressing guarded determination, but seems incapable of expressing doubt, which robs Jane — and the movie — of any sense of dramatic urgency. Lacking depth or motivation, she is more plot device than protagonist.

  • While lacking some of the nuance that made Sound of My Voice so distinct, Marling and Batmanglij have managed to produce one of the most smartly written undercover thrillers in recent years. The East doesn't redefine the genre, but a strong cast, polished direction, and absorbing story make it an impressive effort nonetheless.

  • The East may not have the rough charm of Sound of My Voice (serious budget inflation has a way of doing that), but the film, if you can temporarily suspend disbelief, is still the kind of rock-solid intelligent entertainment that has become all too rare.

  • ...If The East loses a little steam on the grounds of action mechanics (a skill these plots always require), it’s never dumb on the subject of covert allegiances. Coming in our moment of recent domestic terror, the movie has a boldness in diving into the whys of political violence. These activists aren’t clowns, even if they sometimes bicker like a disorganized family.

  • Ultimately I think the story could do with a clearer and more passionate point of view; it’s as if the icy, rational detachment Marling projects as an actress also defines the worldview defined by the script and Batmanglij’s directorial choices. But at its best “The East” comes close to being the morally murky film about anti-corporate resistance that we (or at least I) have been waiting for.

  • The mix of radicalism, naïveté, and forest-bound sex flirts with the absurd. But Marling and Batmanglij have an interest in rituals and devotion and the accompanying exploitation of belief. As artists, they're not dissimilar from an idiosyncratically talented filmmaker like Shane Carruth. But they appear to enjoy the power of storytelling.

  • This sleek, smart enviro-thriller is a more commercial movie from Marling and director Zal Batmanglij than 2011 cult study ‘Sound of My Voice’. But its morally ambiguous investigation of extreme left-wing politics is still light years away from usual multiplex concerns.

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