Following on from 2011’s ‘Sound Of My Voice’ (which is currently doing the rounds on Sky Movies). Zal Batmanglij (yes his actual name) teams up with Indie actress (who’s terrific in ‘Another Earth’) Brit Marling, to make his most mainstream picture today of ‘THE EAST‘. In a very familiar ‘Point Break’/’The Fast And The Furious’ setup, this spy thriller sees Marling play a cool female spy (yes they now have them in Hollywood) infiltrating ‘THE EAST’ – a small eco-terrorist group lead by Alexander Skarsgard, with Ellen Page and Toby Kebbell acting as his followers.
There are several things I like about this film. While Batmanglij doesn’t really channel much of his theme from his previous films into this, his direction brings a strange voyeurism approach to every shot, which allows a more (almost) candid feel to what essentially is an espionage story. There is also a real sense of character progression with the screenplay he co-wrote with Marling, which allows audiences to really ‘connect’ with the main character with ultimately the difficulty of which side she should join. Is it the ideologies of the Government agency she works for (lead by Patricia Clarkson) or the almost ideologies of the almost mystical ‘THE EAST’.
Regarding this central female character Marling plays, she is very much the ”crown jewel” of the film. The purpose she brings to the film is pretty much female empowerment. You see her advising women to stand up and don’t let ”He dictate you”. This whole process works refreshingly well, as it’s rare to see a hero character do such things. Also refreshing is the fact she’s flawed, allowing a drive for the character to overcome, other than just bring down a evil antagonist. Also note that Ellen Page and Toby Kebbell, who are both great, and the some of the disabilities some of the character have on show again adds just a little more class to the film and its footing in the espionage/spy genre.
There is downfall’s though. Alexander Skarsgard doesn’t really convince that well as the enigmatic leader of ‘THE EAST’. Yes women might ”swoon” at his looks, but to be the enigmatic leader he needs more charisma, and his character needs more conviction on his backstory. Also as the film goes on you do now how and where it’s going to end, and the drugs/American healthcare undertone does not cover new ground (note Ellen Page character ark which feels a little pushed). Generally though this is a refreshing spy/espionage thriller which certainly stands on its own two feet with some of the best of its genre. It’s also going to be the start for big things for one Brit Marling, a name you’re going to hear about for a long time to come. A recommendable experience.