By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
This year marked the indie ascendancy of Amy Seimetz (star of Upstream Color, director of Sun Don’t Shine), but don’t go forgetting last year’s indie darling.
Silly Independent Spirit Awards , that’s not Indie.
You may remember Brit Marling from her Another Earth, or as the star of one of my favorites last year, Sound of My Voice. In The East, she again plays the lead for fellow hot property director Zal Batmanglij. Similar to their last team-up, The East is about an outsider infiltrating a seemingly sinister group, but this time Marling plays the infiltrator. The group she’s after is an environmental terrorist cell devoted to giving big corporations and their management a taste of the evil that they’ve been doling out (covering houses in oil, giving management tainted drugs, etc.) Will she succeed, or fall prey to them or their ideology?
First and foremost, this is a first-rate thriller and absolutely fascinating procedural that feels real, even if the tactics Marling uses may be more clever than accurate. Watching her MacGyver her way out of situation after situation is incredibly entertaining.
The acting across the board is top-notch, led by the always excellent Marling and Ellen Page, playing an ecoterrorist suspicious of the new girl in town. The real surprise here, though, is Alexander Skarsgard, playing the charismatic group leader, and not Nondescript Hunk No. 1 as usual. He shows some unseen range here, the result being something along the lines of a hippie Bruce Wayne.
Don’t worry, he can’t resist showing his ass here too
Batmanglij makes strides here as a director, delivering a more polished, better looking film than his first. Also, any soundtrack that includes The National gets a thumbs up in my book.
For me, this doesn’t quite reach the heights of Sound of My Voice. It’s hard to quantify this, although it doesn’t help that you need subtitles to get through the multiple conversations Marling has with a deaf activist, unless you’re a fluent lip-reader or sign language expert, that is. Perhaps what it comes down to is that this feels like some of the themes are retreads from both the previous film and many others of its type. Even though they’re compelling enough for two flicks at least, it’ll be nice to see something different from the Marling/Batmanglij team.
The East is a compelling, extremely well-made thriller with some thematic punch.
Stick through the credits to see what happens next/some potential wish fulfillment at work
Take a Drink: whenever Marling contacts her company
Take a Drink: anytime Marling is wearing a towel/changing clothes
Take a Drink: whenever Marling does something clever
Do a Shot: for each ecoterrorist mission