Brit Marling plays an agent for a private anti-terrorist company who infiltrates the titular group of eco-terrorists to take them down. Along the way, she meets some people she really likes, grows attached to them, and wonders if maybe she’s playing for the wrong side. So, yeah, it’s basically “Donnie Brasco” amongst hippies. ”Point Break” in flannels. ”The Fast and the Furious” for Environmental Science majors. You get the point.
Following a formula isn’t always a bad thing, and “The East” has enough good pieces in place to overcome its cliches. Unfortunately, it keeps making stupid blunders that seriously dent its plausibility. It’s good a good cast, led by Marling and counterbalances by Ellen Page, great set design and solid cinematography, but what it really lacks is a technical consultant and a script doctor. This is a movie that invites you to pay attention, to think about what it’s presenting, and then can’t keep from tripping over its own mistakes.
For instance… (and you should stop reading here if you want to see this movie – I’m going to spoil it.)
–Ponds that sit next to chemical factories are not full of dead fish. They’re empty.
–If a pharmaceutical company succeeds in selling their brain-damaging antibiotic to the US military, they are a few months away from the biggest, most expensive lawsuit in the history of the world, regardless of what’s listed as side effects on the side of the box. So really, the terrorists helped keep a billion dollar pharmcorp solvent. Nice work.
–If a terrorist organization poisons you with your own medicine, you don’t go on TV and announce it to the world. You cover it up; when you get sick, you claim that poisoned you with something else.
–If you suspect that your agent has turned, you don’t stop her at the door and take her Blackberry away, then let her go. As lazily as she was searched, the thing that Marling swallowed to hide would have been perfectly adequately hidden in her bra.