Tag Archives: Brit Marling

The East

21 May

the east


Director: Zal Batmanglij

Writers: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling

Stars: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 116 minutes


Over the opening credits oil slicks pollute coastlines as an Ellen Page voiceover introduces an eco-terrorist group called The East. It is a strong intro to a topical and interesting subject. The East is a young anti-corporate group of agent provocateurs that target businesses polluting the environment. Members are described as anarchists and counter-culture types. We expect a mix of Green Peace activists and Occupy Wall Street protesters with the likes of Exxon, Goldman Sachs and Dow Chemical firmly in the crosshairs of their righteous rifles.

Page plays true believing activist Izzy. The lead character Sarah is her opposite and played by Brit Marling (sharing the writing credit with director Zal Batmanglij). Sarah works for a private company that protects the reputations of big business. The company sends her to infiltrate The East as a part of their surveillance and counter-terrorism work. She is chosen in part because she is a highly unlikely agent provocateur. She is a straight-laced Christian radio listening good girl (so just maybe The East will not see her coming…) Sarah’s journey into the heart of the anarchists’ collective, and away from the expected path, is no doubt where the film-makers expected drama to emanate from.

Unfortunately, the role of Sarah and the casting of Marling hobble the film from the get-go. She looks too much like a hair model, acts in an oddly impassive manner, and her character is simply far too naïve to ever be selected as an undercover operative. Marling can act and has shown up well in films such as Another Earth, but I don’t see her as a lead and one suspects her writing credit and friendship with the director partly led to the unconvincing turn here. That is a pity because the subject and basic premise are worthwhile.

Elsewhere the casting is similarly flawed. The East comprises of Page, Toby Kebbell as Doc, Aldis Hodge as Thumbs, and Alexander Skarsgard as their sensitive leader Benji. Together they look like a J Crew version of an eco-terrorist group. It’s a young, good-looking, confident and well attired group that would look out of place at Glastonbury let alone a Green Peace protest. It’s all too unbelievable and any semblance of drama from an early attack on a big pharmaceutical target dissipates as the gang mope and squabble and pout and shout. Their later raids are less impressive and the lack of drama continues to a muted ending. This is a missed opportunity. Never have counter culture types, anti-corporate terrorism and deep under-cover work been so dull.

Another Earth

18 Apr

Director: Mike Cahill

Writers: Brit Marling, Mike Cahill

Stars: Brit Marling, William Mapother and Matthew-Lee Erlbach

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 92 minutes




We are entering a period of post-modern science fiction. That accounts for this film Another Earth following so quickly on the heels of Melancholia and Moon before that. New or re-packaged film genres emerge for different reasons, but typically the reasons reflect the macro economics and geo politics of our times. So it is feasible that our recent collective loss of faith in politicians, bankers and the police is pushing modern film makers towards a new form of sci-fi.

This film, like Melancholia and Moon, is difficult to characterize and to adequately describe. ’Post-modern science fiction’ is halfway there, and certainly covers the other planet storyline, but this is also a dark tale about living with guilt and striving for second chances. The central character Rhoda (played extremely well by Brit Marling) causes a tragic road accident, spends time in prison and then emerges to try to salvage her life and to make amends to the victim (a widower called John played by William Mapother). Most of the film focuses on Rhoda slowly bringing John out from his booze and prescription drug induced isolation. Their awkward relationship develops whilst a planet seemingly identical to earth enters our orbit and dominates the sky.

This is a first film for the director Mike Cahill and it has flaws that can be attributed to inexperience. Whilst the sparse dialogue and slow indie pacing mostly work, this film drags at times. It can also be too earnest with the grainy documentary style filming giving it an unintended amateurish feel at other times. However, it is certainly different and it is interesting.  Also, it is atmospheric and the music and cinematography are both excellent. This film makes you think which is not to be under-valued with so much bland cinematic fodder served up these days.

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