PG-13, 116 min.
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Writers: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling
Starring: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Aldis Hodge, Danielle Macdonald, Hillary Baack, Patricia Clarkson, Jason Ritter, Julia Ormond, Jamey Sheridan
Eco-terrorism might be a window into the general terrorist mindset that so few of us seem to understand, since terrorism involves such violent acts against people we perceive to have little to do with causes of said terrorists. There was an excellent documentary on eco-terrorism a couple of years back called “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”. Nominated for an Academy Award, it gave the accounts of actual eco-terrorists who had been involved in the deaths of innocents and brought light to the fact that this is a real form of terrorism that takes place right here on our shores. Now comes “The East”, a dramatic thriller that turns its focus on a group of eco-terrorists who go too far despite the validity of their philosophies.
The story follows an FBI recruit working for an independent contracting firm hired to end the attacks of an eco-terrorist group known as The East in their war on big corporations. The young female agent goes deep undercover and the filmmakers do a good job showing the scrutiny under which eco-terrorist groups place their members. They also spend a great deal of time establishing the free-spirited atmosphere of these groups once one has been accepted. The leader is charismatic and wields a control over the group of which most of its members are unaware. Their hearts are in the right place, but they don’t stop much to consider the moral implications of their actions.
Brit Marling co-wrote the script and stars as the young spy who does her job but is turned a great deal toward the philosophies behind the group’s actions. For the most part, the film does a good job following the procedural format in exploring the espionage involved in infiltrating such an organization, but there are a few points in the script where the character is let off the hook in her delicate situation. I found a member’s choice to keep quiet about an early discovery of the truth about the spy a little hard to swallow. I was, however, pleased to discover that the script gave the agent full credit for her own intelligence in the way it handled the final resolution of her choices.