The East Blu-ray Review
The first time I saw the trailer for THE EAST, the newest movie from the co-writers of SOUND OF MY VOICE (Zal Batmanglij who also directed both and Brit Marling who starred in both), I’ve been desperately avoiding every scrap of news. I wanted desperately to avoid the annoying (albeit catchy) marketing/spoiler campaign I encountered with their earlier collaboration. Having now watched the movie and gone back to screen the trailer I’m reasonably certain I made a good decision. See, I believe the hype machine in Hollywood – even on smaller films like this one – tends to completely warp our perceptions of what movies should be so that we don’t really have an accurate meter when we walk into the theater. It’s a calculated risk; take a movie that looks really bad and you might have low enough expectations when you walk into the theater to have a good time… And when the preview leads you to believe the movie is one thing, and it turns out to be something else, well, it’s just pretty frustrating.
THE EAST tries to give the audience this good time by introducing us early to a young investigator from a private intelligence firm, Sarah (Marling), who is just about to land her first undercover assignment. Her assignment? Go undercover with an anarchist group, The East, which has been carrying out covert attacks on large corporations. But of course she never knew she would become so attracted to the leader of the group, an attractive but scary man named Benji (Alexander Skarsgård from TRUE BLOOD). Sarah infiltrates The East by a self-inflicted wound and getting help from their doctor, a former medical school student named Doc. He has been with The East since the beginning.
Once she’s inside, the group’s members quickly mold her and bring her into the fold. But she is truly served by Benji; the charismatic leader of The East seems to think he’s found the next core member of the group. Of course, soon Sarah is questioning her loyalties and even falling for him (cliché much?). For a time the only person in her way is Izzy (Ellen Page), a charter member of The East and one of the members of the inner circle.
This is now the 4th film I’ve seen with Brit Marling and she is electric on screen. Her characters are all played with a quiet intelligence and dignity that belies her years – maybe it is because she is a screenwriter in addition to her acting. Similar grades go to Skarsgård, who is arguably much better known than Marling and crackles with chemistry with pretty much everyone. The same can be said for Ellen Page who roared onto the scene with her terrifying turn in HARD CANDY and in JUNO, showing a range which many actors twice or three times her age would be jealous.
Sadly the cast’s pedigree just can’t save this movie from itself. Anytime you think about a independent movie (especially one with such a good & timely premise) you hope for something… intangible. Something quick and unbelievable, but undeniably genuine. Something that would lead you to identify with the characters in some new way… and THE EAST doesn’t deliver. In fact, it’s the most plodding and meandering film I’ve seen from screenwriter Marling.
THE EAST isn’t the terrible movie that I was afraid it would be. It isn’t even necessarily bad (as you can see in my above score) but it is desperately and irrevocably mediocre. With all the bad movies in the world, I hoped this one with Marling (who I think is horribly under-rated), Page and Skarsgård would actually be something interesting, something worth watching. Sadly it just really isn’t worth the time. The worst thing a movie can be is forgettable – and this movie (what is it called again?) is exactly that. Only for hardcore fans.
THE EAST BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.35:1) THE EAST is presented beautifully and uses color to effectively move the audience while attempting to immerse us in this world so very close to our own.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is also well done on THE EAST, with a very smooth track that clearly conveys dialogue even though some moments of the film can be very quiet.
Deleted Scenes (04:46): 4 deleted scenes are presented on the Blu-ray for THE EAST. (Thank you for the play all button Fox Searchlight!) Most are an extension or slight change from what was presented in the movie, and as is usually the case don’t really add anything to the story. They would certainly not help with the pacing, which was… well, fine I guess. Included scenes are: Denoxin Survivors, Izzy’s Room, Escape, and an Alternate Ending.
Theatrical Behind the Scenes – A series of featurettes are presented on the Blu-ray for THE EAST. Each one focuses on a different aspect of putting together the movie, each a short, brief but intimate view into the process. Pretty cool.
THE EAST Exposed: The Story (03:08)
Off the Grid: Creating THE EAST (03:10)
Casting THE EAST (03:16)
Two Brothers: Collaboration (02:33)
Cause and Effect: The Movement of THE EAST (03:08)
Examining the Moral Gray (04:28) This one is a little different, a Q&A from the Tribeca Film Festival intercut with scenes from the movie in HD.
THE EAST also features the Theatrical Trailer (01:07) and sneak peeks of other Fox Searchlight pictures.