The East 

If you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen them all. But you should, and The East — unjustly ignored in theaters earlier this summer amid such competition as Man of Steel, This Is the End and World War Z — is now available on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. It's still one of the 10 best films I've seen all year. 

The title refers to an underground group of ecological terrorists led by the scruffy Benji (Alexander Skarsgård, Disconnect). He and his followers — most notably Izzy (Ellen Page, Super) — exact revenge on corporate fat cats who knowingly profit off immoral actions, whether made against the environment or its populace.

When the film opens, The East’s masked members are making a nighttime raid on the home of an energy company CEO, filling its halls with oil in retaliation for a massive ocean spill for which they hold him responsible. Afterward, via YouTube, the anarchist group warns it will carry out three more “jams” over the next six months; warns Izzy, “We will show no mercy.”

Enter Jane Owen (Marling, Arbitrage), an agent with a secret intelligence firm with no government ties and run by a no-BS boss (Patricia Clarkson, Easy A). Its high-dollar clients are the very corporations The East targets. Jane is assigned to infiltrate the group, identify its members and shut it down.

Just as Marling’s previous two films as a triple threat toyed with the conventions of science fiction and redefined what that genre means, this does the same with the thriller. The sophomore feature of Sound of My Voice director Zal Batmanglij specializes in keeping its audience in the dark until the last possible moments, generating considerable unease — a feeling heightened at home, where the experience is more intimate. 

Whereas Sound of My Voice was purposely enigmatic and up to viewers’ interpretation, The East asks no such work beyond full attention. As absorbing and largely unpredictable as it is — a true virtue in this blockbuster age of American cinema — that shouldn’t be taxing. Batmanglij’s hand is more assured this time around as he and Marling expand their scope far beyond their previous collaboration’s basement locale.

If the results aren’t quite as satisfying (Sound nearly topped my list of 2012’s best films), it may be due only to the story feeling extended by about 15 minutes more than necessary. Still, there’s real capital-S story there, layered with intrigue and unraveled in a simmering, slow-burn style. Unlike its seasonal competition, you’ll be thinking about this one long after its end.  —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This!

Another Earth Blu-ray review

Arbitrage Blu-ray review

Disconnect film review

Sound of My Voice film review

Super Blu-ray review

This Is the End DVD review

World War Z film review

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Rod Lott

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