Patricia Clarkson recruits Marling to join her top-secret private intelligence firm and sends her undercover to join an eco-terrorist group called The East, run by Alexander Skarsgård. This low-key collective plays dirty tricks on corporations that are polluting the environment and manufacturing drugs with dangerous side effects.
Of course, the built-in problem with embedding yourself in a close-knit group like this is that you get to know its members as people; that makes it tough to remain aloof and stay on-course. Marling and her co-writer and director Zal Batmanglij explore this subject with intelligence and feeling for the ethical and moral issues involved. The East is an involving, often exciting drama with good parts for Marling, Skarsgård, Clarkson, Ellen Page, and Toby Kebbell.
Another filmmaking team could have taken the same material and played it more dramatically; it’s the lack of Hollywood slickness that I admired most about The East. The ending is a bit low-key, but has staying power, and that matters more, to my way of thinking.