The East

Rating: How can domestic terrorists be the good guys? See The East and find out.

The EastThe East is one of those wonderful films that you should not let escape the theater despite the fact that it is flying under Hollywood’s promotional radar screen.  While it won’t appeal to everyone, it is a powerful film that embodies the memorable words of Peter Finch in his Oscar winning performance in Network (1976), when he stated, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”;

In summary, Director Zai Batmanglij‘s movie focuses on an intriguing group of domestic terrorists dedicated to holding American corporations accountable for their profound excesses. For example, one of their public mottoes is, “You poison us, we’ll poison you.”;

You come to admire them despite the fact that they freely violate the law. How can you not embrace this cluster of rogues who simply want to insure that industrial companies that pollute our rivers and streams pay for their public sins? Can it really be kidnapping to force the CEO of an oil refinery that has been secretly dumping hazardous wastewater, threatening the health of working people living nearby, to literally swim in their polluted waters?

In an attempt to infiltrate our anarchist group, an intelligence firm headed by the cryptic Patricia Clarkson sends an operative played by Brit Marling to work undercover. Marling is tremendous as a young woman whose initial condemnation of the group mutates as she begins to identify with its members. Her confusion deepens with her personal attraction to the head of the group, a young man powerfully played by Alexander Skarsgard. Far from a self-righteous thug, he is dedicated to risking his life for the cause.

Also standing out is Toby Kebbell, playing a former doctor who is physically and emotionally scarred from the hidden side effects of a popular pharmaceutical drug. For him, it is time to settle a score with the leaders of the responsible drug company in one of the most searing sequences of the film.

But it is the performance of Ellen Page that reaches up and grabs you by the throat. Playing a young woman known as Izzy, she memorably fights to get even with her wealthy father, leading to profound tragedy. If you doubt Ms. Page’s talents, think of her as the girl with the bad attitude in Hard Candy (2000); the nasty little Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006); her knockout role as the pregnant young girl in Juno (2007); the kick-ass rollerblader in Whip It (2009); her contribution to the great success of Inception (2010) and her endearing portrayal of the foolish fake super hero known as Boltie in Super (2010). This native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a human work of art.

Finally, 2013 has brought us a series of interesting films that are co-written by actresses who then appear on-screen. Much like Greta Gerwig did in the delightful Frances Ha and Julie Delpy again accomplished in Before Midnight, Ms. Marling breathes life into her own script. These women have helped to create stories that give an exciting, edgy nuance to their gender, and movie audiences benefit as a result.