The East Review

Posted: December 21, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

THE EAST_uk-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I don’t remember what film the trailer for The East was attached to when I first saw it, but I remember the experience. The teaser started with a fake commercial for a fictional company. I assumed it was a legitimate commercial and wasn’t really paying attention. Next thing I know I start getting hit by a bunch of intense cuts, shots, and music while Ellen Page ominously narrates. I couldn’t wait to see The East, but it never played anywhere near me. Thankfully, we have home media and I’m glad because while The East isn’t quite as good as the awesome trailer would suggest, it is a pretty solid movie.

Jane Owen (Brit Marling) works for an organization that specializes in infiltration. A major corporation as hired them to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group called The East. The East is made up of young people who target large corporations who they deem guilty of crimes against humanity. Their attacks are essentially extreme pranks which have an ironic twist, such as flooding the CEO of an oil company’s house with oil. Jane is sent undercover to join The East for the purpose of discovering their plans. After some patience, she finds the group, led by the reserved Benji (Alexander Skarsgård). However time with the group forces Jane to reconsider her opinion of them.

The plot description reads as if the film is directly attacking mega-corporations. For the most part, this is true, but The East is less of an actual exploration of corporate policy than it is a thriller. However the corporate backdrop is very helpful in that it gives the film something of an edge. While any actual themes of corporations aren’t explored very deeply, the film is clearly about something larger and that alone sets it apart. The backdrop of corporate crime also makes the “undercover agent” plot feel more fresh. The film also works well as a straight up thriller. The cinematography is dark but effective, the editing tight, and the various “jams” The East performs are well staged.

In general, I really admired the writing here. Not that this is some brilliant script, but the film is very focused with almost no fluff. Perhaps the biggest strength of the script is its depiction of the titular terrorist group. The film wisely never treats The East or their actions as heroic, but it also doesn’t vilify them completely either. There’s an understanding of why they do what they do, even if they’re misguided. This could have been a slippery slope and I was impressed with how well the film handled this aspect. The story also takes some nice turns and manages to give the characters some human moments. There is one scene I wasn’t crazy about and an emotional beat that fell flat, but overall the script is tight.

The cast is also pretty solid. Ellen Page is the most famous cast member and she does a good job. This is a darker character than she usually plays, probably the closest comparison is her work in Hard Candy, but here she feels more collected. She also sells some emotional moments later in the film which work. Alexander Skarsgård also gives a solid performance and it was fun to see Patricia Clarkson in a more calculated role. Brit Marling holds her own with the more seasoned pros and I look forward to seeing her in more. The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out with a bunch of solid character actors.

Overall, I liked The East. It’s a well-made thriller with a respectable cast and it’s actually about something. I was never really wowed by any of it, but it never made any major missteps either. It’s also impressive that this film was made on a budget of just over six million, a relatively low number. And while it doesn’t feel like a large scale production, it uses its money well and feels right on par with the more big budget Hollywood thrillers. It’s a shame The East never received a real theatrical release and seems to have been forgotten. I have a feeling this could have been that independent film to strike a chord with mainstream audiences, at least more open minded ones. Hopefully more people discover it on video and on netflix.


  1. Haven’t had a chance to watch it. A “B” is better than a “C” and there are plenty of those out there. I like to focus on the good in a film. A solid script, like you suggest, is always worthy. Thanks for the head’s up.

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