Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The East: The Best Movie You've Never Head of

To say that I enjoyed the movie The East is a significant understatement. It may in fact be in the top five of my favorite movies of 2013. Not just because Alexander Skarsgard’s ass was truly stunning in the film, though it and his fantastic performance alone make the movie worth seeing.

The entire movie from start to finish is at once compelling and thought provoking. It not only putting the lead character, and by extension the audience, in uncomfortable and morally gray areas, but does so cleverly and with a clear intent. 

In the age of Hackivism, Occupy Wall Street and Social Justice, The East hits just at the right time and asks all the right questions. It shines both a sympathetic light on activism culture, while not softening it’s rough edges and glaring flaws. So much of how the movie depicts reality is in the subtle performances of the incredibly talented cast, all of whom hit it out of the park and left me emotionally raw after watching. 

This was my first introduction to creative team of actress Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij. I am impressed. Marling’s performance was stunning, and the execution of the film was flawless. Alexander Skarsgård, and Ellen Page turn in equally impressive performances. Skarsgård especially shows just how his talent is wasted on True Blood. Page showed a very realistic, human side of a character that could have easily been overplayed.

While on the surface The East appears to be a straightforward thriller about a former FBI agent turned high-end private investigator going undercover to investigate a social activism cult. The tale it tells is a much more complex reflection on modern culture, both in how we lie to ourselves about the evils of corporations, but also how equally problematic some forms of activism have become. Putting forth an age old question of can two wrongs really make a right? 

The East challenges us to not demonize either side, both of which are populated by very real and often deeply flawed human beings, but instead to look for better answers. It even offers up one of its own, a move that has draw criticism from some movie critics calling it too neat. I strongly disagree with what I see as a cynical backlash from critics who have grown far too comfortable with open-ended, disparity that they reject anything resembling hope as silly. The East makes a bold move, that is a very important of the narrative and nailed it. Leaving me with a deep sense of hope, but still very thoughtful about how it reflects on the real world. 

In the end, everyone should judge for themselves whether The East is a revelation in social commentary or just a thriller with a high-handed message. Either way, it’s a great film featuring a female lead the likes of which we haven’t seen since Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. 


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