Film Review: The East

Thriller The East is an entertaining affair. There is not much going on beneath the surface, but this does not detract from the enjoyment in Zal Batmanglij’s film.

Jane, an undercover agent for an elite private intelligence firm, is sent on her next mission. She is to infiltrate an anarchist group known as The East. Sarah must find out the group’s next target whilst getting its leader to trust her…

Written by director Zal Batmanglij and star Brit Marling, The East feels incredibly current, given recent news stories. The film taps into the fascination with covert groups such as Anonymous, particular given the cyber angle.

The East is a competently executed thriller that should retain the viewer’s attention. It works well as entertainment, but those expecting something more nuanced may be disappointed. Messages in the film are laid out clearly; there is little to ponder beyond the values that the filmmakers push. This is not a huge problem, as the film works on the entertainment level.

There is some ambiguity with the main characters, which adds a sense of mystery to proceedings. Protagonist Jane’s mindset is understandable. The film does not over-emphasise her background, which is certainly an asset. The snippets revealed as the film progresses fill in enough of the picture, without the need to explicitly spell things out.

The East offers an interesting enough narrative. Some of the events do seem rather questionable, however. For example, Jane seems to infiltrate a top-secret, sophisticate cell with relative ease. Moreover, the decisions she takes in the film’s climax appear to tally less with her earlier behaviour.

Brit Marling delivers a believable performance as Jane. She has good support from Alexander Skarsgärd and Shiloh Fernandez. Most of the characters are given enough depth to make them appear three-dimensional.

With its contemporary themes, The East should satisfy audiences looking for a decent thriller.