Eco-terrorists are still terrorists. But when they’re as earnest and nice as the ones in Zal Batmanglij’s The East, it will make life a lot more murky for the infiltrator who’s been assigned to find them, become one of them, and take them down.
The woman assigned to crack the case – the group’s name is The East whose motto is “We are your wakeup call” – is Jane, a former FBI agent (Brit Marling, who co-wrote the screenplay with Batmanglij). When we meet her, she’s a new hire at elite private intelligence firm Hiller Brood. Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) oversees the company’s undercover activities on behalf of clients who fudge the truth about conforming to environmental law and, consequently, need their interests protected. The last thing these transgressors need is a surprise “jam” – a visit from the slippery members of The East who’ve dug up the dirt and then efficiently dole out eye-for-an-eye justice to the non-upstanding corporations.
Once Jane, whose alias is now Sarah, gains the confidence of the group – its members include Benji the leader (Alexander Skarsgard), medically trained Doc (Toby Kebbell), passionate Izzy (Ellen Page) and Luca (Shiloh Fernandez) – she goes on “jams” with them and reports back to Sharon. What Sarah doesn’t count on – she already has a boyfriend – is falling for Benji and becoming increasingly sympathetic to what these anarchists stand for.
What The East demonstrates, in addition to Neptune’s trademark self-sacrifice and compassion for the victims of corporate crimes against the environment, is Uranian disruption – revolutionizing the way people hold big business accountable – and a change-or-die tenacity that’s fueled by Pluto. These powerful archetypes galvanize innovative thinking. For one character, they represent a fatal and selfless fight to the finish (with a bit of vengeance thrown in for good measure).
As circumstances increasingly prevent Sarah from protecting the very people she was assigned to bring to justice, she’s faced with a tough decision. How does she, as Jane sustain a balance that entails a less violent way of bringing corporate travesties to light? As she puts it, in the form of a prayer, “Let’s not be arrogant or weak.”
Astrology Film Rating: ♅♆♇ (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)