The trailer of The East drew me in and I’ll admit it, I bought a copy. Gasp! Determined to review things for free, I usually rely on publicity contacts, but this one had something that intrigued me.
What if an underground movement was doing the wrong things for the right reasons?
When private investigator Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) goes undercover, sleeping in the open and traveling on railway cars, just to infiltrate a group known as “The East.” This group, headed by Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), has set its sights on grabbing the public’s attention and shining a light on tragedy perpetrated by big companies.
Moss participates as they poison a company party with the company’s own deadly antibiotic, causing the same side effects that one of the East already suffers from; she’s present when they go after another of the East’s enemies, the parents of Izzy (Ellen Page), who are poisoning a town’s water supply. But when the East’s attention falls on Moss, how will she respond?
One of my favorite scenes shows how a subversive group might get it better than a non-subversive one! [Let’s be real: Christianity was subversive, still should be subversive, before it was a major world religion.] The group invites Moss to dinner but she’s forced to wear a straightjacket and all of the spoons are two feet long. She’s told she has to start as the guest, and is immediately lost. But the group shows her the joy of feeding each other with the long-handled spoons. C.S. Lewis would be so proud!
There are significant ethical conversations wrapped in the tight script of the film. Does the truth matter and who controls the truth we receive? Is it the major companies, the news programs, the government? [This seems to echo themes we’ll see in The Fifth Estate.]
What does justice look like, and how can we find justice when the law doesn’t provide it? Can the outsider in Moss find a cause she agrees with but disagree with the methods of the group? What would be justifiable responses to these kinds of corporate crimes? Is an “eye for an eye” still acceptable morality? (That’s a question St. Augustine would’ve loved to debate!)
Overall, The East proves that it has some tough questions to ask, and delivers it in a slick, thrilling format. Check this one out and come back to leave your thoughts on what you saw, and how you’d respond in the same situation.