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"The East": The Eco-Terrorists Have Won ... Our Hearts 

Wednesday, Jun 5 2013

In the opening scenes of Zal Batmanglij's The East, it's established that protagonist Sarah Moss (co-screenwriter Brit Marling) is a devout Christian. But as the story unfolds and intelligence operative Sarah infiltrates a freegan eco-terrorist collective called The East, her Christianity is never again referenced, nor does it have any apparent influence on her thoughts or actions. It's symptomatic of the movie as a whole, which is pretty to look at and moves along at a brisk pace, but full of loose ends and plot-driven improbabilities (why the telltale compass hanging from the mirror? So the story can move forward). The East's tension evaporates by the second half, particularly as the secrecy and cult-like rituals of the collective that are so painstakingly set up in the first half are largely disregarded to make room for an obligatory love story between Sarah and group leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgård). The East does raise some valid moral questions about corporate responsibility (as well as the virtues of eating other people's discarded apples) but the script feels a couple drafts shy of being ready to shoot. And for all its railing about justice, the fact that Ellen Page is relegated to a supporting role may be the greatest injustice of all.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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