The East (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 116 May 31, 2013
By Amy Nicholson
You're either with Brit Marling or you're against her. The 29-year-old blond filmmaker (who describes herself on Twitter as a tree climber/actor/writer/producer) catapulted out of obscurity in 2011 with two obfuscatory indies-- Sound of My Voice and the mournful sci-fi drama Another Earth. Marling specializes in films about faith, loyalty, and paranoia, where rationalists argue with dreamers and everybody seeks a greater meaning to what could just be nonsense, which is to say her specialty is life. In The East she acts/writes/produces/and, yes, even climbs a tree. Marling plays Sarah, a former FBI agent turned corporate spy, paid handsomely to protect McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Exxon, and the like from the terrorists: vegans, environmentalists, and activists out to besmirch their names. Handing Sarah a pair of brand-new Birkenstocks, her boss (the coolly cynical Patricia Clarkson) sics her on the latest shadowy supergroup, The East, who we meet dumping crude oil through the air-conditioning vents of a gasoline mogul's mansion. Sarah is cut from Marling's own image. She's clever and capable, a whiz kid who can't fail. Over the course of the film, she picks handcuffs, punches men, and leaps from trees with the grace of a private-school ninja. If she has a flaw, it's that she can't hide thinking she’s the smartest person in the room. In another life, I'd love to see Marling play Bond-- imagine those Botticelli waves falling over a tuxedo. But in this life, she's still proving her brains, which is why it's disappointing that, for all its empathy and equilibrium, The East has nowhere to go after the script backs itself into a corner.
Zal Batmanglij Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Brit Marling, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson, Julia Ormond, Aldis Hodge, Billy Magnussen Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij Ridley Scott, Michael Costigan, Jocelyn Hayes-Simpson, Brit Marling Fox Searchlight Pictures

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