Ellen Page is wonderful in “The East.” I’ve never seen her in a movie when she wasn’t wonderful. At the end of the film, there is an IATSE union bug. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to learn in this far-fetched morality tale about rich kids seeking revenge on their parents and other authority figures. Their oft-stated goal is to make the perpetrators of corporate crimes feel the suffering of their victims. They pollute the polluters and drug the drug-company exploiters.
The movie is told from the point of view of an undercover agent. She’s an ambitious, religious, and idealistic young employee of a for-profit intelligence agency. She cleverly inserts herself into the inner circles of a major eco-terrorist organization, where she finds their devotion and commitment to their cause so enchanting that she begins to feel divided loyalties.
Patricia Clarkson, also a wonderful actress, plays the intelligence agency villain. She couldn’t care less how many people are killed or crippled as long as she finds a way to make money out of it. Warned of an impending victimization, she tells her undercover agent to keep quiet because, “They’re not my clients.”
Will the agent turn in these loving hippies? Or will she give in to her newfound commitment to social justice and carry out more ultra-left attempts at change? Or will she, as I kept hoping, sit down and think through how social improvement might actually be achieved? Is there any way to wring a happy ending out of all this twisted plot?
Probably. It’s Hollywood, and “The East” is far from its worst example. My movie buddy and I liked it, appreciated it, and were moved by its message, almost as much as “The Lone Ranger.”
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Starring Brit Marling, Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgaard, Patricia Clarkson
2013, PG-13, 118 min.
Photo: The East/FOX Searchlight