Friday, Aug 22, 2014 05:36 pm est

“The East” succeeds as a down-to-earth thriller

Posted on May 30, 2013 | by Zack Grullon

Courtesy of Scott Free Productions

Alexander Skarsgård and Ellen Page might find it rather challenging to attend any Hollywood party after the public sees “The East.” Their characters are a part of the titular cult that redefines torture after performing an act of ecoterrorism on a party of rich individuals.

And that is just the first of the three acts of violence, or, as the cult calls them, “jams,” that are performed to spread the message about the corruption of large corporations that pollute the environment.

But agent Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) plans to infiltrate the East and stop their violence. She becomes a mole, obtaining crucial information to expose this secret group by sending information back to her boss (Patricia Clarkson).

This anarchist collective consists of the enigmatic leader named Benji (Skarsgård), a Brown University dropout named Izzy (Page), an unorthodox doctor (Toby Kebbell) and a variety of other odd characters. They gather food from garbage, feel the insides of a deer corpse and dress in straitjackets to bond.

But after a while, you realize that this group is more than a group of modern-day hippies. Maybe there is some truth in their cause. But will the eye-for-an-eye philosophy work, or only cause more chaos? That moral play, though not vastly different from most other films of this ilk, is precisely formulated thanks to Marling’s performance and apt direction by Zal Batmanglij.

Marling and Batmanglij wrote the script together, and the two have crafted a thriller that is not too slow, but not too high-octane that would render it bombastic. While you will be thinking about the film’s moralistic undertones, you will also be entertained and slightly disturbed by Moss as she unravels the inner depths of the East’s motives.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from something many thrillers tend to have — a weak third act. Marling and Batmanglij have written such a tight thriller for the first two-thirds that the final unnecessary twist feels messy in comparison.

But despite these complaints, “The East” is a treat for individuals tired of summer blockbusters. Among the high-octane thrillers that move quick enough to cover their plot holes, “The East’s” distributor, Fox Searchlight, is brave in releasing a film that steers away from that archetype. “The East” is briskly paced, intelligently written and realistically frightening.

Zack Grullon is a staff writer. Email him at


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Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

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News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

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Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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