First Hit: Interesting, thoughtful, and stayed with me long into the next day.
The premise of this film, for me, was three fold: It was about activism, social responsibility, and personal responsibility.
In this context, the film gives viewers the ability view these three concepts in their own way. The scriptwriters’ and director’s personal biases aren’t overtly being pushed on the audience.
They state a set of facts about what a company is doing or has done, then what “The East” intends as punishment and why. They are an eye for and eye group. The East is a group of younger people who found themselves, for personal reasons, working together to do “Jams” which are the payback sessions for the large corporations. An oil company executive’s home is vandalized by having oil pumped through the vents.
As the Jams get more intense, the prices get higher. The film moves through this story by having Sarah (Brit Marling) get in to and then spy on this activist group. One of the opening scenes after she is with the group gives you a wonderful view of what the group hopes to achieve – it is about eating.
The security company Sarah works for, puts her and other company agents in harm’s way by inserting them with activist groups to find out what companies the activists are going to attack. Then, her boss pitches security services to mitigate activist actions to said companies. It is a rather interesting way for the filmmakers to share the story and give the audience the opportunity to better understand responsibility – theirs and a companies’.
Marling is sublime as the agent who hides her life from her boyfriend, boss, and groups she infiltrates. All the while, the audience understands her dilemma, position and stays engaged with her character. Alexander Skarsgard (as Benji) was perfect as the leader of the group, although they portend to not have a leader. His excellence comes from an insecure sureness that juxtaposes his mission. Ellen Page (as Izzy) is fantastic. Her pointed intelligence stands out as she continues to grow as an actor. Tony Kebbell (as “doc”) was strong as a strong member of the group. Zal Batmanglij and Marling wrote this very strong and thought provoking script. Batmanglij’s direction was superb in its execution.
Overall: I liked this film and it had me thinking about my actions and being responsible for them – just as all of us need to do.