Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pulling Punches

The East       Final Cut Score 86%

"We want all those who are guilty to experience the terror of their crimes."

That's the mantra of the titular eco-terrorist outfit in The East, a taut, shrewd thriller that strikes right at the heart of the current state of corporate greed and the loathing thereof.

Sharing a similar feel to 2011's criminally underappreciated Martha Marcy May Marlene, indie darling Brit Marling is Sarah, an ex-FBI agent turned operative for a covert private intelligence firm keeping companies safe from anarchical anti-establishment associations like Anonymous The East.

Plucked by her outfit's colder-than-liquid nitrogen head honcho (Patricia Clarkson) for the plum assignment of infiltrating the directionally-named extremists, Sarah ingratiates herself with the holed-up-in-a-dilapidated-cabin clan, capturing the attention of its charismatic leader (Alexander Skarsgard). Sparks fly as Sarah falls for the insurgent, causing her to question her very beliefs — could these eco-freaks actually be working for the side of good rather than evil?

The exploration of what defines those two extremes – the ambiguity of it all – is where The East excels. Are radical measures righteous if the cause is justified?

Splitting writing duties with director Zal Batmanglij for a second time in a project that delves into the world of cults (2012's Sound of My Voice), Marling and Batmanglij pull punches as things come to a close, opting for a more pacifist resolution than their fictional insurrectionist group would certainly espouse.

Instead of experiencing terror, the crooked corporations receive an earful of "Kumbayah".