The East is a tight, little thriller that is well worth the investment of time and energy to take it in if you missed it on local screens by adding it to your list to check out when it becomes available in other formats.
The film is directed by Zal Balmanglij, written by Balmanglij and Brit Marling, and stars Marling as a former FBI agent, Sarah, who works for a company that provides intelligence and security for corporate clients to help them avoid or manage situations that turn into public relations nighmares or otherwise damage the bottom line.
Marling takes an assignment undercover to join a small group of anarchists (some would say terrorists) that target companies they believe have harmed people without paying for their actions (some would say crimes). The group she infiltrates is called The East.
The set-up and overall plot are interesting, the larger themes and ideas that undergird the story are relevant (if not vital), but the real focus of this story is at the personal level, the micro rather than the macro.
We watch Sarah as she begins to question and change, and it is impossible not to follow her along that journey. Brit Marling – who has said in interviews that she began writing as a way of furthering her acting career – is a big talent. Without her subtlety and depth in developing this character, The East would not be as believable or as interesting.