I’ve been writing little film reviews on this blog for about eighteen months now. I’ve almost always written a review within twenty-four hours or so of watching a movie but I saw The East nearly a week ago. Whether due my brief illness, boredom of writing or lack of interest in the film I can’t say, though I think all three contributed. The trailer for The East was one of the best I’ve seen in recent months. It gave little away and felt edgy and interesting. The film however doesn’t live up to the trailer. I’m a big fan of Brit Marling and thought that her writing and acting in Another Earth were superb. Here she crafts a script which is full of intrigue and expectation but fails to get to the heart of the issues that she is focussing her attention on.
I won’t go into much detail about the plot as some of the characters differ significantly from what I was expecting. All I will say is that there is a group calling themselves The East. They’re environmental terrorists (or freedom fighters depending on your perspective) who use tactics which can be best described as being ‘morally grey’ to right the wrongs done by large corporations. Brit Marling plays a member of The East but begins to question the morals of both sides as she uncovers more about The East, the corporations and herself.
I felt like the plot chugged along at a decent pace and I was never bored with what was laid out in front of me. The film takes some interesting turns of direction and there’s a couple of nice little surprises along the way too. Overall there is little wrong with the plot. My main issue with the film is that after all the bravado about anti-pollution environmentalism; it ends up sitting on the fence far too much. Don’t get me wrong, this film wouldn’t have been made by a large studio because it gives big oil/pharma etc a hard time but for all its liberal aspersions early on, it seems to settle somewhere closer to a middle ground towards its conclusion. I would have liked for the movie to stick by its initial beliefs and run with it but an argument could be made that the developments make for a more rounded plot.
The acting is very good throughout and I also thought that the casting was spot on. Marling, as well as writing and producing, stars in the lead role and plays a somewhat duplicitous character with great vigour. Her moral conundrum comes through in her face and physical actions though and she can handle herself in any situation the script asks of her. I think she is a real talent both in front and behind the camera. Alexander Skarsgard chalks up another decent performance with his natural charisma working in his favour as the leader of The East. Like Marling, he’s an actor who is frequently popping up in small roles and quietly stealing scenes and films without allowing the audience to get over saturated with his presence. Ellen Page delivers a grittier, earthier performance than I’ve seen from her of late and fits the role she plays. Patricia Clarkson is chilling and cold.
Like the rest of the film, the direction is fine. I have no qualms about how or where the movie is shot and some of the scenes have a great beauty to them. In general the film is very good. It has a nice spy-thriller element to it and the stuff about freeganism and social-consciousness are interesting ideas. I was talking to Richard from I Liked That Film about this movie and he was having the same trouble as I am in summing up the movie’s problems. There isn’t really anything that I didn’t like but something at the back of my mind is troubling me. It isn’t even the frequent nude scenes which my girlfriend thought were misplaced (despite agreeing that if she’d written the movie then Skarsgard would spend it naked too). She also thought that the romance was shoe-horned in but I can appreciate how that added to the many conundrums in the central character’s mind. The movie is well paced and well written but it just loses its way with what it’s trying to be and what it’s trying to say. Despite some great moments and talent all around, I could barely remember the film the next day. For something with such strong political themes, the film left no impact on me.