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The East

Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Produced by Michael Costigan, Jocelyn Hayes, Brit Marling, Ridley Scott, and Tony Scott
Written by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling
With: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Aldis Hodge, Danielle Macdonald, Hillary Baack, Patricia Clarkson, Jason Ritter, Julia Ormond, Billy Magnussen, and Wilbur Fitzgerald
Cinematography: Roman Vasyanov
Editing: Bill Pankow and Andrew Weisblum
Music: Halli Cauthery and Harry Gregson-Williams
Runtime: 116 min
Release Date: 28 June 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color: Color

In The East, the third film by writer/actress Brit Marling and her second collaboration with director Zal Batmanglij, a young female spy working for a high-end private intelligence company must infiltrate an eco-terrorist collective. How refreshing to see a sharp, well-constructed political thriller that is actually about something and not just an excuse for meaningless plot-twists and supernatural action sequences. The film allows the audience to spend enough time with its intriguing and complex characters to understand their goals, motivations, and moral dilemmas. Though Marling and Batmangij’s screenplay suffers from a few too many narrative contrivances, there is nothing in the picture that violates its own internal logic, and both the dramatic scenes and the action sequences are intellectually absorbing and emotionally satisfying.

Marling is an exciting young actress and certainly a force to be reckoned with in the modern indie-film scene. In addition to starring in 2011’s Another Earth and Sound of My Voice (both co-written by her with each film’s director) she played key rolls in last year’s political thrillers Arbitrage and The Company You Keep. But The East surpasses all four of those films. The movie represents a huge leap forward from the first feature by Marling and Batmanglij, Sound of My Voice, and Batmanglij has matured into an impressive director who never upstages the tight script or his fine cast with any unnecessary cinematic shenanigans. This gives The East, despite its contemporary themes, the feeling of an intelligent political thriller from the 60s, 70s, or 80s. Though the film doesn’t fully capitalize on all the concepts and issues it raises, it is a thought-provoking and highly entertaining work. The East fills me with hope and excitement about the future collaborations of this filmmaking team.