Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Drama, Thriller
  • 2013
  • 116 mins

The East

The East


Follow-up to Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling's The Sound Of My Voice converts the politics of anti-corporate extremism into engaging genre thrills.


From Deep Cover (1992) to Donnie Brasco (1997), from Infernal Affairs (2002) to TV's The Americans (2013), our screens are full of stories involving undercover agents pushed into crises of identity by a combination of conflicting allegiances and Stockholm syndrome. In The East, the agent is Sarah (Brit Marling), assigned by a shadowy private security firm to infiltrate the eponymous anarchists' collective, and to report back on its publicity-drawing 'jams' against corporate corruption. Attracted to the group's charismatic leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), Sarah soon finds herself seduced by The East's values, if dismayed by their M.O..

Drawing from their own experiences hanging out with anarchists in the late Noughties, writer/director Zal Batmanglij and his co-writer/lead Marling follow up their previous collaboration The Sound Of My Voice (2011) with this timely examination of the politics of resistance, all palatably couched within a taut genre frame. Leaving no doubt about the criminal activities of the companies that the group targets, the film can instead focus on the motives and methodologies of the 'terrorists' themselves, who are shown engaging in an evolving dialectic about the morality of their own increasingly violent actions, even as they mirror both the crimes - and the PR - of the very corporations that they attack.

Further muddying the ideological waters, it will emerge that jams purporting to be purely political have deeply personal causes - although part of the film's admirably complicated, contradictory message, as suggested by a pair of scenes in which Sarah feels around in another's quivering entrails, is that we should all, as individuals or members of corporate society, be willing to get closer to, and perhaps bloodier with, our body politic. A pity, though, that the film's ending is so rushed and disappointingly pat.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Ellen Page, Brit Marling, Toby Kebbell, Patricia Clarkson
  • Writer: Brit Marling
  • Producer: Michael Costigan, Ridley Scott, Jocelyn Hayes, Brit Marling, Tony Scott
  • Composer: Harry Gregson Williams

In a nutshell

A complicated film (with an oversimplistic ending) for the age of the Occupy Movement, The East probes the ethics of those who would oppose corporate malfeasance through covert action.

by Anton Bitel

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4


    Katell Quillévéré's family-based drama follows Suzanne, a teenage mother who falls for a gangster

  • Film4

    The Purge

    Ethan Hawke stars in James DeMonaco's drama about a sanctioned night where all crime is legal

  • Channel 4 Blog

    BIFA brings 2015 nominated films to cinemas

    BIFA-nominated films including the Film4-backed 45 Years, The Lobster, Macbeth, Amy and Ex Machina will be available in cinemas nationwide from 23 November in a special public screenings event. The

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4-backed films receive 41 nominations at the BIFAs

    Film4 has received a total of 41 nominations for the films it has backed at this year¿s British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs), with the nomination lists for the Best British Film and Best Director a

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • RT @SightSoundmag: The top 20 #BestFilms2015, as chosen by 168 critics from around the world:…

  • RT @SightSoundmag: 7. 45 Years #BestFilms2015

  • RT @SightSoundmag: =9 Amy =9 Inherent Vice

  • RT @SightSoundmag: 2 Carol #BestFilms2015

  • RT @SightSoundmag: Time for our #BestFilms2015 poll results! This year we polled 168 international critics, and got a poll more diverse tha…