The East is a political thriller (of sorts) co-written by star Brit Marling and based around a eco-terrorist group known as, well, The East. Ellen Page plays Sarah Moss, a former FBI agent working for a private intelligence firm, who are attempting to infiltrate The East. And, well, that’s about all I can say. Normally, if I don’t summarize a plot fully in a review, it’s because I’m afraid I’ll spoil it, or it’s not the kind of film that’s full to the brim with story, but more focused on character. The East is a special kind of film; it doesn’t seem to have much of a plot at all.
In stories, you can normally pick out what the central element is and what the secondary elements are. But with The East it’s proving more difficult than one might imagine. Is it the espionage? Possibly, although this seems to be the worst run terrorist group in the history of the world. They never have a plan or work things out, they just sit around moaning about the world’s evils. They remind me of the group in Life of Brian, constantly talking about things but never actually doing it. So if it’s not the espionage, is it the romance? Well, no, not really, since that gets a total of about three scenes before it’s resolved. Is it the characters? It’s definitely not that, since these are some of the worst developed characters I’ve seen in a while. They’re separated by one defining trait that they repeat over and over. There’s the guy that heals people, the leader guy with lots of muscles, the girl who moans about everything, everyone’s there.
The fact that The East has been marketed as, and is listed everywhere as, a thriller, is laughable once you’ve actually seen it. It’s about as thrilling as watching Kevin Costner do his taxes while sitting in a room full of pain drying. The East has such severe pacing problems that even it’s scenes where they are doing something, the few that there are, seem dull. The sad thing is, it really could have worked. If they took the premise of making a thriller from the point of view of the terrorists, something rarely seen, while commenting on the capitalist world we live in could have been great, but unfortunately the pacing, script, and acting don’t allow for that.
So for the lack of plot, the plodding pace, the laughable dialogue, woeful acting, and waste of a potentially cool premise, The East is a disappointing film all round. After I left the cinema, I realised that The East is the kind of film I hate the most; a film which leaves me feeling nothing. It left me feeling empty, depressed, and exhausted. At least deplorable films like Movie 43 and This Means War leave me filled with anger and distaste for an entire medium. But The East isn’t like that. It doesn’t make me angry, it doesn’t make me sad, it doesn’t make me feel anything. It’s just a soulless void of bad film-making that will most likely be forgotten and go straight to the £1.99 bucket at Tesco. And you know what? It’ll still be too much.