Friday, May 31, 2013

The East

The East (2013)
Dir. Zaj Batmanglij

3 out of 5

If there’s a big takeaway from The East, an eco-thriller from director Zaj Batmanglij and co-writer/star Brit Marling, it’s that the filmmakers have been reading the papers a lot recently.  Taking the “skeptical outsider infiltrates mysterious cult” angle of their previous collaboration, the excellent Sound of My Voice, and infusing it with a journalistic immediacy, The East is chockablock with material familiar to consumers of the 24-hour news cycle - corporate malfeasance, domestic surveillance, terrorism - and, more intriguingly, the readers of magazine trend pieces on intentional communities and the new anti-consumerism.  When Marling drops terms like “freegan” without the condescending need to explain what they mean, it’s clear that she’s done enough homework to resent having to regurgitate it for the audience’s benefit.

This is a good thing.  The East has an air of credibility that convinces us to go along with Sarah Moss (Marling), an operative at an espionage-for-hire firm, as she infiltrates the titular organization, a band of anarchists whose efforts to expose corporate wrongdoers become increasingly militant.  She locates the group just as they are preparing for a trilogy of major stunts - or “jams,” in their parlance - orchestrated by their handsome, charismatic leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgard).  Sarah begins to question the morality of her mission - and her fidelity to her nice-guy beau (Jason Ritter) - when she witnesses how Benji has organized various misfits and damaged souls into a type of surrogate family.  But she can’t ignore the darker side of his eco-friendly manipulation, compromising both the goals of her sternly maternal employer (a terrific Patricia Clarkson) and her new cult-y crush object.

The East embodies a similar quandary, applying a Hollywood thriller sheen to an offbeat project that sympathizes with the folks willing to bypass criminal justice and poison people to prove a point.  While the movie addresses certain issues embedded in its premise - Sarah rouses early suspicion for her, ahem, hygienic appearance - it is too reliant on dramatic convenience.  The East’s “jams” are constructed with a clever sense of irony that quickly curdles into pat moralizing, exacerbating the inconsistent character motivations in subplots featuring a doctor (Toby Kebbell) rebelling against the pharmaceutical company whose drugs gave him a permanent hand tremor (which still hasn’t stopped him from practicing medicine), and a prodigal daughter (Ellen Page) whose ping-ponging emotions contribute greatly to the film’s collapsing sense of verisimilitude.  

The missteps extend to an epilogue that should have been left on the cutting room floor, a sequence that tries to provide the tidy - and frankly, far-fetched - answers that Sound of My Voice shrewdly avoided.  Batmanglij and Marling’s sincerity saves The East from appearing as a work of cultural tourism (the inspiration for the script reportedly came from the duo’s two-month stint as activists in the “Buy Nothing” movement), but as a dramatic interpretation, it’s still somewhat lacking.

1 comment:

  1. The reality is:
    1. There is an antibiotic causing the exact symptoms portrayed in the film, they are called Fluoroquinolones.
    2. If you listen to the news caster in the movie you will hear the name Fluoroquinolones, and how it was used during the Gulf War to vaccinate our troops against Anthrax - the "Gulf War Syndrome" the soldiers suffer from is actually the adverse reactions to the Fluoroquinolone vaccination used, Cipro.
    3. Bayer, along with Johnson & Johnson, and the FDA, are all fully aware of how thousands of people have been stricken by the serious adverse reactions to Fluoroquinolones. The three most common prescribed are Avelox, Cipro, and Levaquin - but even with the profits in the billions from the sale of these medications, not one dime has been spent by any of them to research why is it happening, how to reverse, or repair the damage it has caused to the thousands of patients who trusted that the medication they were taking was safe.
    It's obvious to those who suffer from Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome that the makers of this film did their research prior to making the film, and were spot on in their portrayal of the symptoms of the adverse effects of this antibiotic. This is a classic "Truth is stranger than Fiction" when it come to Fluoroquinolones. The pharmaceutical companies want the world to believe these reactions are rare, when they are not. It has been estimated that 1 out of 10 people will have some type of reaction to these antibiotics ranging from mild to severe. The pharmaceutical companies are willing to let the "few" suffer for the "greater good." Most people know and understand the risk of tendon damage and rupture from Fluoroquinolones, because the pharmaceutical companies were forced to place a warning on the antibiotics - FORCED being the operative word here. They are NOT going to acknowledge any other reaction they are not forced to do. The scariest part of the whole movie - what does it tell you when Hollywood "gets it" before the FDA does?