READERS OF MY blog know that I’m a fan of Brit Marling, and was looking forward to The East. By the trailer, it seemed a natural extension of the last collaboration between Marling and director Zal Batmanglij, the brilliant little indie Sound of My Voice (see prior posts). The basic story is of Marling’s character infiltrating a specialized terrorist group which targets executives of companies which commit wrongdoings. This group, The East, likes to exact punishment in kind.
A great premise for a film, but this movie just didn’t jell with me. The main problem is that it didn’t grip me hard and shake me, as I think the content had a right to do. That’s about my most favorite thing a movie can do — grip me right from the get-go. Sound of My Voice, No Country for Old Men, and Django Unchained all commanded my attention from the first scene. Further, deep dark places that this movie might have explored it instead averted. Think about the mastery of Martha Marcy May Marlene, the depth of that film. Or what Gene Siskel said about Blue Velvet:
…this did for me what Psycho did… which is, eyes open, and, oh my God, we’re really getting in over our heads
The East never quite plumbed those depths.
A related problem with The East was that I couldn’t get into the characters the way I wanted to. In a way this was a very character-driven film, and the lack of conviction, depth and complexity with the characters transferred to the story — and this feeling infected the entire movie. There was a certain superficiality to the whole production.
But infected is too harsh. The East is still a good movie, with some very nice moments and a good story. I’ll give it a marginal recommendation; 6/10. Nothing will be lost waiting to see this on video.
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BONUS! The classic Ebert & Siskel review of Blue Velvet. Skip ahead to 3:50 for Siskel’s “getting in over our heads” comment.