Steve G 🇵🇸 🇾🇪’s review published on Letterboxd:
A Julia Ormond sighting!
I'd almost completely forgotten about how massively eager I was to see The East when it came out a couple of years ago due to my enthusiasm for everything that Brit Marling was doing there. Although I didn't quite rate Sound Of My Voice as highly as some, certainly in comparison to the superb Another Earth, there was more enough evidence over those two films that Marling was a massive talent on two fronts - as a writer and actor.
With her and Zal Batmanglij having also collaborated on an upcoming Netflix series called The OA (where the fuck is it, 2016 is nearly finished), I was reminded of The East when I was trawling around online looking desperately for some news as to when we will finally get to see that bloody thing. Once again, Marling (and Batmanglij) shows a real flair for being able to take what seems to be a fairly generic tale and do something quite different with it.
While it does occasionally border on being overly hippie-ish with its initiations (that dinner table scene was pretty bad), Marling shows a complete understanding of what is likely to bog her story down and subsequently skirt any issues. The breakdown of her relationship with her boyfriend is given impressively short shrift and this doubles up as a really good narrative decision as it shows what priorities lie in her character's life now after her interaction with the titular eco-terrorists.
She also makes the tug-of-war for her character between the firm she's working for and the group a completely convincing one. She steers away from the usual 'law enforcement person starts to turn' stuff by first of all making the people she's working for not be the police or the FBI or any of the other million law enforcement agency they have in that America. She then writes her character superbly by having her specifically object to violent acts from start to finish and absolutely not wavering from that side of her beliefs.
Even so, I can't think of many actors that I have ever seen in this sort of film who have been so convincing in portraying this crisis of conscience she shows here. She's an unshowy performer who could be perceived to lack a spark of flair, but her down-to-earth and rather elusive air really has served her well in all three of the roles she has written for herself to date. It unquestionably helps to keep us guessing right to the end in terms of what side she ends up picking - and that turns out to be her own, in a thrilling finale that finishes off a fine film in completely convincing style. She's supremely non-committal at key moments. I'm more convinced than ever that she is a remarkable talent.
My review wasn't supposed to be all about Brit Marling but I think the fact that it has been shows how good she is here considering the calibre of the support cast - and Elliot Page and Patricia Clarkson are especially excellent too. But she shows a complete grasp of the story she's trying to tell as both a writer and on-screen performer, and partnered with a director who seems completely in-tune with what she is trying to achieve, it helps make The East into an almost totally enthralling movie.