The Daily Aztec
San Diego State's Independent Student Newspaper
Sterling Alvarado


April 30, 2013

Eco-terrorist thriller is surreal and smartly written

More articles by »
Written by: David Dixon

Share on TumblrShare via email

Director and screenwriter Zal Batmanglij, and actress and screenwriter, Brit Marling collaborated on the very small psychological thriller, “Sound of My Voice.” Now, they teamed up for a much bigger picture, “The East.” The result is an espionage drama with some famous names and grand themes.

FBI agent Sarah Moss (Marling) is asked by her tough boss, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), to go undercover and find out information regarding an eco-terrorist group known as The East. After meeting the leader, Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), Sarah starts to feel sympathy for the cult and finds out its reasons for seeking revenge on wealthy corporations are completely justified.

For about an hour, “The East” is one of the more playful and erratic suspense films of the year. Even before Sarah becomes a member of the group, there’s no telling what will happen next on screen.

While Sarah experiences some admittedly bizarre moments with The East, the tone never feels weird just for the sake of being weird. Instead, the activities that members take part in, which include freeganism and a game similar to spin the bottle, symbolize different characters’ relationships and their personal beliefs.

The second half of the work is a more straightforward adventure, but no less compelling than the opening sequence. It’s a far more plot-driven section posing big questions about tragedy, loyalty and identity.

Credit Marling and Batmanglij for playing with genre conventions during the climax and trying something unique. The ending is deliberately set up for what appears to be a crime flick cliche. Spoiler alert: It’s the classic situation when a criminal says he or she is going to do one last job and tries to execute it. What follows next is both unpredictable and very satisfying.

Batmanglij’s direction is tense from the get-go. His pacing is at times quick and to the point, which works beautifully, but he also focuses just as much on the individuals at the center of the story.

The actors and writers create people who are smart, strange and more complex than they seem on the surface. Marling gives the audience a reason to become invested in the world she helped invent. Her empathetic performance makes it very clear why Sarah would join The East.

Skarsgard brings a lot of nuance when playing Benji. He’s charismatic and intense while depicting a man who could have easily been a villain, but is instead well fleshed out and occasionally poignant after he shares his reasoning for starting the anarchist collective.

Equally impressive is Ellen Page’s portrayal of Izzy, one of The East’s more active members. While the immensely likeable Page starts out as cold and distant, she eventually gives her role a soul, especially during one of the more shocking and sad twists toward the conclusion of the mystery.

Original, bold and full of thought-provoking ideas, “The East” works as a combination of wonderfully trippy entertainment and a statement involving morality. Be prepared to keep thinking about some of the messages long after the movie is complete.

Facebook Comments

About the Author

David Dixon
David Dixon has written reviews for for the San Diego Union Tribune Column, Rated G, and In High School, David wrote articles for the SCPA school newspaper, The Production. He also writes for


Screenshot of Student Success Fee email.

Student Success Fee survey closes with low participation

The Student Success Fee survey, which was sent out for the first time April 7th, closed with 2,594 student votes last Friday. This survey was the only opportunity for the students to provide feedback on what courses they though...
by Camille Lozano


Students are missing out on essential life skills

The phrase “growing up” entails many things. Usually, the first aspect that comes to mind is responsibility. I’m talking about­­ real, personal responsibility, part of which is financial responsibility. Throughout the y...
by Kelly Gardner


Coachella is about the music, not outfits and celebrities

There are two three-day weekends in April that are filled with music, a little bit of art, trendy and ridiculous outfits, and some hot celebrities. This shindig is called Coachella, but I’m sure I didn’t need to tel...
by Sabrina Shahawi



Event will “start up” student careers

Looking for a job or internship can be a challenging task. Thankfully, San Diego State is making it easier with Start-up @ State. Hosted by the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, the Entrepreneur Society and Startup Circle, Start-u...
by Melissa Artobello

Comcast Reports Quarterly Earnings Rise 16 Percent

‘Worst Company in America’ contest reveals concerning priorities

There is another bracket that’s worth some attention during March madness. It’s none other than the annual Consumerist’s Worst Company in America awards. Every year since 2010, consumers have voted and awarded the coveted...
by KC Stanfield



Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply