By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood January 22, 2013 at 11:56AM
Critics are divided on director Zal Batmanglij ("The Sound of My Voice") and co-writer-star Brit Marling's newest collaboration, "The East." While some find the film a relevant, absorbing eco-terrorist thriller, others deem it overlong and "deeply silly." Review highlights below.
Check out the film's trailer here.
For reference, here's the film's plot, via the Sundance program notes:
Someone is attacking big corporate CEOs and forcing them to consume harmful products they manufacture. An elite private intelligence firm is called into action and contracts ex-FBI agent Sarah Moss to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective, The East, suspected to be responsible. Skilled, focused, and bent on success, Sarah goes undercover and dedicates herself to taking down the organization. She soon finds, however, that the closer she gets to the action, the more she sympathizes with the group’s charismatic leaders.
[In addition to Brit Marling, the film features a] supporting cast, including Patricia Clarkson, Ellen Page, and Alexander Skarsgård,
A social-conscience espionage film that has actually thought about its "eco-terrorism" themes beyond figuring out how to mine them for suspense, The East sends a straight-laced overachiever undercover with a violent eco-vigilante group. Zal Batmanglij and cowriter/star Brit Marling deliver a consistently tense, morally alert story that has plenty of box-office appeal.
There's no doubt that talented filmmakers like Batmanglij and Marling have a bright future in Hollywood. Their world is rich, characters interesting, and writing/acting/directing skills show plenty of promise. Unfortunately, The East just seems to suffer from some growing pains. There are some cool ideas here and it's pretty damned entertaining for a studio action-thriller, however, it's definitely no Sound of My Voice.
At nearly two hours, the film is just slightly overlong and can be deeply silly at times, but nonetheless thoroughly entertaining. Some of the dialogue feels a bit on the nose while the self-seriousness makes some of the more melodramatic turns seem ridiculous.