Based on director Zal Batmanglij and co-writer Brit Marling’s practice of Freeganism and experiences joining an anarchist collective, The East uses the plotline of a spy movie to raise awareness of the same issues as movies like The 11th Hour and An Inconvenient Truth. In this way, the movie focuses on those responsible for the environmental crimes and those who sabotage them instead of their effect on nature alone. Marling is riveting as the undercover agent. The East’s cult leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgard) is both equally ruthless and vulnerable in his portrayal while Ellen Page plays the fearless cult follower Izzy. Each character is unique and intriguing and makes you question who the real heroes are.
The East incorporates two very different settings: corporate America against an isolated house in the woods of rural Louisiana. These settings reflect the battle between the two groups perfectly and creates a movie that is shocking, interesting and relevant to issues of illegal oil dumping, untested drugs, water contamination and other environmental problems.
A viewer who enjoys big budget movies may be disappointed as it is classified as Cinema Nouveau and contains some graphic scenes. But based on its intentions, The East is a brilliant depiction of eco-terrorism, giving a whole new meaning to the mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle.