Starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson, Jason Ritter,
What is so frustrating is that hoards of people are watching Fast & Furious 6 or This is the End instead of watching something smart, sexy and really interesting like The East. I had the chance to speak with co-writer, producer and star of The East, Brit Marling, at this year’s SXSW. She delivers her best work to date; The East is a film that combines real government and societal issues and inserts them into this fabricated group that often hurts people to expose and prove their point, thus asking the audience if the ends justify the means. Is this group terrorist or are they trying to prevent further cover-ups?
The East is known as a secret movement throughout the US where small groups plan what are known as “jams”. One of their most recent was putting a highly controversial drug company’s own drug in their champagne as the CEOs and high ranking officials of the company celebrated. Some of them suffered adverse effects, and The East proved a point. Jane (Marling) works for an intelligence firm that has sent her in to spy on one of these groups, which is led by Benji (Skarsgard). She joins their group and becomes one of them, but doesn’t agree with their ideology of hurting one person to save another. It also becomes clear that her agency is being paid by certain groups to go after The East, and she finds herself looking for an impossible alternative.
This performance, unlike small roles in Arbitrage or The Company You Keep, certainly reveal Marling's leading lady-like quality.
This could have been a standard infiltration thriller using a young, hip cast including Skarsgard (True Blood) and Paige (Juno, Inception), but the creativity and the ultimate message here– “the system is broken, the evidence is in the trash”–is a powerful one. Marling, who co-wrote the script with director Zal Batmanglij, has used daring examples from her own life in the film. This performance, unlike small roles in Arbitrage or The Company You Keep, certainly reveal her leading lady-like quality. Skarsgard continues to find himself in the best films of 2013 (Disconnect, What Maisie Knew).
The most surprising element of this thriller is not the suspense or the performances, but the eroticism. With arguably one of the most interesting spin-the-bottle sequences involving all kinds of free love, it’s the nude scenes involving Skarsgard that will have many of his fans buying a ticket. Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson is a great asset to the film, and one that shows clever casting and understanding of her talent and presence. There is a really magnificent scene at the dinner table involving straight-jackets that I found incredibly clever and well executed, and like everything else in the film, it makes a profound point.
Suspenseful, profound and extremely sexy.