Saturday, June 29, 2013

'The East' Makes a Balanced Statement and a Solid Point

"The East" drew me to the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke last night because Ellen Page is in it and I'd watch her read the Manhattan phone book, but as it turns out she is but a minor character. She's miner in terms of screen time, but still a significant presence in this espionage thriller from writer-director Zal Batmanglij and writer-actress Brit Marling.

 "East" is Marling's vehicle and she carries it with convincing strength as a spy working for a company that infiltrates eco-terrorist organizations for big business. She's quite an actress, though not well known at the moment, and her writing in this one is superb.

We get the immediate impression that Marling's Sarah Moss, a former FBI agent, is straight-laced, and very much a believer in the system. Then she runs into a rag-tag bunch of "you spy on us, we'll spy on you" protesters who are giving industrial polluters and bad drug manufacturers tastes of their own products--with disastrous results to them finds. She finds these "terrorists" to be intelligent, thoughtful ... and right.

It is her turnaround that gives the slow, thoughtful and meticulously fair story its appeal. If you're looking for a bang-bang shoot 'em up, go next door and see Superman. In fact, at the Grandin, Superman's constant explosions give "The East" a sub soundtrack that is not appealing. This is a quiet movie, one that tests the Grandin's poor sound system to its limits, but it is worth the effort because the script is intelligent, the directing superb, the cinematography crisp and thoughtful and the acting uniformally excellent.

I liked that the makers of "East" didn't do a Michael Moore and beat me over the head with how bad the industrialists are and how noble the cause of the protesters is. I know that and I like that Marling has humanity and weakness on both sides of her story. It's a fine movie with a thoughtful, satisfying and believable ending and I highly recommend it, but ask the Grandin management if it would be possible to move Superman into another theater.

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