East, TheReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 06/06/13 15:45:34
(Worth A Look)
Britt Marling first came to the attention of moviegoers two years ago with the release of "Another Earth," a fairly fascinating indie film that she co-wrote and starred in that ambitiously fused together a quiet domestic drama about a young woman secretly trying to atone for a tragic misdeed in her past with an ambitious sci-fi narrative about the revelation of an exact twin of our planet and the implications of such a discovery. Last year saw the arrival of "Sound of My Voice," an equally provocative drama in which a couple of reporters attempt to infiltrate a cult in order to expose its charismatic leader, who claims to actually be from the future. These films were occasionally ragged but both were interesting variations of standard theme and Marling was such a captivating presence in both, not to mention the appearances she made in "Arbitrage" and a memorable episode of "Community," that she immediately became one of those performers whose mere presence in a film could immediately make things a little more interesting.In her latest film, "The East," Marling plays Jane, an employee for a top-secret firm that provides elaborate security measures for high-level corporations willing to pay for their considerable efforts. After a radical environmentalist group known as The East begins a reign of eye-for-an-eye attacks on corporate heads who callously put profits before people (if a company despoils a beach with an oil spill, they will find the home of the man in charge and return the favor through the air ducts), Jane's boss (Patricia Clarkson) orders her to hit the road posing as a radical environmentalist in the hopes of falling in with the group and discovering what they have planned next--for those playing at home, this is basically an inversion of the premise of "Sound of My Voice." Eventually, she hooks up with them and while member Izzy (Ellen Page) has her suspicions about the newcomer, she is welcomed into the fold by their leader (Alexander Skarsgard). As she goes about quietly gathering her information, Jane soon finds herself torn between the responsibilities of her job and her growing sense of acceptance towards the group and their objectives, if not necessarily their means of achieving their goals. As the group's attacks become bigger and bolder, Jane has to figure out where she stands and whether she should stop the group or help them carry out their latest and potentially deadliest plan.
Right from the start, with the presence of familiar faces like Page, Clarkson and Skarsgard, not to mention Ridley and the late Tony Scott turing up as two of its producers, it is clear that "The East" finds Marling and director , whom she previously collaborated with on "Sound of My Voice," are working on a much larger scale than before. This time around, there is a new slickness to their approach to the material that is less interesting and more willing to simply ignore plot holes than before (let us just say that for a highly secretive underground anarchist collective that knows that they are the target of practically every law enforcement agency in the U.S., they are surprisingly quick to accept this newcomer into their ranks). Additionally, while all of the performances are good, seeing Juno and running an anarchist collective is more than a bit distracting at times. As a result, despite the greater evident expenditure of time and money than there was on "Another Earth" and "Sound of My Voice,"" this is by far the weakest of the three films.
On the other hand, the end result is undeniably stylish and well-made and contains a number of impressive individual scenes--the best of the bunch has Jane reporting in to her boss with the details of an imminent--as in the next few minutes--attack by the group only to be cooly informed that since the target is not one of their clients, they have no interest in stopping things. If nothing else, it proves that Marling and can write a solid mid-level thriller and that he can also bring one from the page to the screen with a minimum of muss or fuss. In the end, however, the most notable thing about "The East" is the sight of Marling making her next step on the way to stardom. As the gradually radicalized agent, Marling takes the kind of role that made Jane Fonda a superstar in the Seventies and finds an approach that is intelligent, interesting and eminently watchable. Let others go ga-ga over the walking nightmare that is Greta Gerwig--if you are looking for the real breakout actress of the moment, all you need to do is go "East."(At this point, I would like to apologize profusely for letting my inner Shalit out for a moment with that last line and I promise that it will not happen again.)
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