Thursday, 4 July 2013

The East



For the past seven years, I have taken an expensive pill every night before I go to sleep. I am fully convinced that this medication should never have been prescribed for me - that my doctor (along with millions of her colleagues) was brainwashed by a large pharmaceutical company into seeing this medication as a miracle drug which would reduce the risk of heart problems by 90%. The big pharmaceuticals regularly create both the drugs and the need for their drugs and as a result have become among the wealthiest industries in the world. IMHO, a profit-driven pharmaceutical industry is one of the greatest evils on planet earth, not its saviour.
Early in The East, members of an eco-terrorist group calling itself The East begin their campaign to counterattack three mega-corporations by literally giving the people running a giant pharmaceutical company a taste of their own medicine. I confess to being somewhat sympathetic to both their aims and their methods, but since The East is convinced the drug in question has potentially disastrous side effects, I cannot condone its actions (i.e. they are clearly violent actions, which I happen to believe will never ultimately produce the desired good ends), any more than Sarah can.
Sarah (played by Brit Marling), is a new recruit of a huge and powerful private security firm. She is sent undercover to infiltrate The East, which has attacked a number of the firm’s clients. Not surprisingly, as Sarah gets to know the members of the cult-like group and the reasons why they do what they do, her opinions about life on planet earth begin to change, though not enough to prevent her from doing her job. I will say no more about the plot (I’ve said too much already) except to note that Sarah’s life, in a few short weeks, becomes a traumatic roller-coaster of emotions.
Marling is one of the writers of The East (the other writer is the director, Zal Batmanglij), so there is no surprise that she is in the lead role (as she was in her previous two projects, Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, the latter also having been written and directed by Batmanglij). I was also not surprised to learn that Marling and Batmanglij were once penniless travellers who hung out with the kind of anarchists who make up the members of The East, because there is a feeling of authenticity in the depiction of that lifestyle. All three of the films mentioned in this paragraph are odd indie flicks clearly made by ‘odd’ people. Since I consider myself to be an ‘odd’ person, I find myself resonating with these odd films in an odd way, enjoying them very much while feeling a sense of nagging uncertainty about the way the films are made.
Technically, The East is an independent film of the highest quality, with great cinematography, music and acting (Marling is joined by Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page, among others). The writing has been done with great care and, while some might find it preachy, I found the story to be carefully nuanced, ambiguous and worthy of much discussion (always a very good thing), especially in how it looks at the question of challenging the evils of corporate greed.
Somewhat puzzling, however, is the involvement of Rupert Murdoch’s Twentieth Century Fox, part of a mega-mega-corporation with many of its own evils to challenge. 
While I found The East to be a very satisfying entertainment, the nagging uncertainty I mentioned as well as some credibility issues prevent me from giving it more than a solid ***+. It might still make my top ten of the year. My mug is up. 

1 comment:

  1. Saw The East last night and very much enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it more if it weren't for the implication of the scenes flashed during the beginning of the credits at the end of the film. Overall, it felt like some of the care and pacing of the bulk of the film ended up getting squeezed and shedding quality in the last fifteen minutes. I enjoyed the quasi-religious symbolism of the eco-terrorists - if they could have shown just a little more about how that was affecting the lead with her Christian convictions it could have been brilliant. There was just a trace of that brilliance in the "hardness" of her Christian self breaking down when she was being "washed." One of the better moments of the film. I would suggest that the relational component of what was going on in that group was as worry of discussion as the anti-corporate message. ***+ from me - two mugs up.

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