The supporting cast, including Ellen Page (above), is very good but The East (2013) is all about Brit Marling, CK’s latest crush. In the not-too-distant past, the blonde Marling could’ve been stuck in “girlfriend” roles. That would’ve been a shame. Fortunately, she writes as well as she acts and has crafted another challenging role for herself.
Directed and co-written by Zal Batmangli, The East is a somewhat more commercial project than Another Earth (2011), the quasi- science fiction drama she also co-wrote and starred in. Sarah, Marling’s character in The East works in private security. Her boss, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) exudes corporate power and gives her the supposedly plum assignment to infiltrate The East, a group of eco-terrorists. These are Hollywood anarchists, with their own hair and make-up team, looking properly mussed.
Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård plays Benji (an awful name to saddle a character with), the leader of The East. When Sarah first encounters Benji, he has the long matted hair and beard of a mountain man. He’s a hunk, sure, but also seems dumb. Sarah doesn’t think so and, tired of her nice guy boyfriend, is soon trying to figure out how to join this commune.
The East is billed as a thriller. There are moments of suspense and excitement but it’s more of a character study featuring excellent supporting performances. It works best when it goes for realism and stops portraying the collective as eccentric freaks.