The East review

Marling and Batmanglij, who previously gave us the excellent Sound of My Voice, here have a broader canvas and a bigger budget to play with. The East shares similar themes - an individual's loss of identity when succumbing to a secret cult - but though it's more ambitious and assured it ultimately doesn't prove to be quite as satisfying as their last outing.

It's a thriller for the Homeland generation, timely and up to the minute, with the beautiful Marling playing a government agent sent to infiltrate an eco terrorist cell in the American heartland. She allows herself to be humiliated over a meal she shares with the members, thereby gaining their trust, and gradually comes to sympathise with their aims, forming an attraction for the group's leader (Skarsgard). Their "jams" are all deemed very worthy - embarrassing a pharmaceutical company by poisoning its CEOs, and highlighting chemical waste perpetrated by uncaring town counsellors - but as she becomes more involved in their methods her feelings become muddied. There's a great scene where she takes a used apple from a wastepaper bin and eats it in front of her boss (Clarkson), unknowingly demonstrating how influenced she has become by their friends of the earth ideals.

Marling is commanding and convincing in depicting her glacial demeanour slowly unravelling at the double life she is having to lead. Skarsgard is perhaps a little too low key to fully persuade as the charismatic leader but Page is believably passionate as the youthful acolyte extolling her views. She is well cast here and gives her scenes an energetic jolt. Also very Impressive Is Kebbell. This fine actor - he gave the best performance in War Horse - is excellent as the cell's medical expert with an ailment of his own, subtly knowing and inscrutable.

The East maintains a tight grip, even as it goes awry towards the end. Events become less credible as the climax nears but for the most part it is an intelligent, well acted thriller that holds the attention throughout. In a summer peppered with rubbish like Now You See Me, the exhaustive and exhausting Man of Steel and the hugely unfunny Hangover 3, this articulate and well constructed affair is a refreshing exercise for adults, well worth catching.

The East at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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