Sarah Moss, a former FBI agent, has just started a new career at Hiller Brood, an elite private intelligence agency that aims to protect the interests of its corporate clientele. Sarah is handpicked by the head of the agency, Sarah, to infiltrate The East, an elusive anarchist collective that seeks revenge on major corporations for their crimes against the environment. Determined to prove herself to her new boss, Sarah quickly locats the group but underestimates her ability to stay emotionally detached from this anarchist group. Zal Batmanglij's The East is a suspenseful espionage thriller that is well-paced and engaging but it ultimately falls victim to extreme bias. This is an incredibly angry film about Eco-terrorism and because of this, the film is far too one-sided and laughable in its attempt to evoke change. My main problem lies in how every corporate boss and antagonist to The East is a caricature of big business - one note, extreme individuals who don't care at all about people's suffering. The film could have easily fixed this by giving some of these antagonistic characters some depth but it instead ops to show us these one-dimensional characters to serve the motives of the filmmakers. The East is full of interesting ideas but the film never does much besides scratch the surface. The film fails to truly capture how The East is no better than the people they wish to punish, or how the members are no better than the average American, following their leader blindly. The strongest aspect of the film revolves around the toll the double life has on Sarah's psyche. It captures Sarah's growing familiarity and emotional attachment well, but unfortunately ops for a silly relationship/love subplot that feels forced and completely unnecessary. The East is a film made by people angry for change, but in crafting a story that's one-sided and manipulative, it fails to have much impact at all.
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