Box art for The East

The East

action & adventure, drama

An ambitious new recruit at an elite intelligence firm (Marling) is assigned to infiltrate an elusive activist group that terrorizes negligent corporate leaders.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 14
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
Positive role models
2 out of 5
4 out of 5
Positive messages
1 out of 5
3 out of 5

Possibly controversial messages in eco-terrorism thriller.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that The East is a thriller about a spy who infiltrates a violent eco-terrorist group and becomes involved with its members. The movie doesn't specifically condone this anarchist behavior, though it's clearly angry about irresponsible corporate behavior and suggests that other solutions may be possible. There's not much fighting or shooting, but some blood is shown, and there are some strong images and dangerous acts. Some sexual situations arise, and nudity is suggested but rarely shown. Language is minimal, and a "natural" sleeping drug is used on the heroine. The movie's reactionary message will likely appeal to many teens; hopefully it will inspire good deeds instead of destructive ones.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about The East's somewhat violent eco-terrorist, anti-corporate message. How do the movie's main characters justify their actions? Are they right, or is there a better way to get involved?
  • How does the anarchist collective demonstrate teamwork? How about trust? How does Sarah prove that she can be a member of their team?
  • Who are the "good guys" and "bad guys" in this story? After a while, does the anarchist collective seem bad? Does Sarah's boss seem good?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

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  • Audience


Audience Reviews

4 stars

Brit Marling is officially three for three in my book. After first seeing the actress and writer in director Mike Cahill's 2011 film Another Earth it was not necessarily her acting skill that was intriguing, but the way in which she gravitated towards projects. Yes, she was good at playing guarded and mysterious, but she was also able to invoke a sense of real intensity that continues to carry through not only the characters she plays, but the films she has a hand in making. Last years Sound of My Voice paired her with friend and director Zal Batmanglij to produce one of my favorite films of 2012 while reassuring me and everyone else that science fiction didn't have to necessarily be big, bold new worlds and fantastic technology to be engaging, but it simply had to have a precise goal and Sound of My Voice was a film very specific in what it wanted to accomplish and did so with a perfect balance of mystery and intrigue. while I completely adore that film and was happy to see Marling re-team with Batmanglij again this year I was thankful they weren't treading the same ground, but were instead moving on to different subject matter completely while still looking to strike up a conversation. With The East these two young, but equally wise artists bring our attention to moral dilemmas. Though the film will grab you in advertisements by purporting to be a slick espionage thriller that follows a rookie agent on her first assignment there is so much more to the film than this generic sounding synopsis. The film is ultimately about deciding what is worth doing that many see as wrong for the greater good of what you believe is right. That is the purpose of the titular-named group that Marling's protagonist Sarah is pulled into and while we certainly expect her to make some type of connection with these people who genuinely feel they have to do these wrong things for the right reasons it comes as a surprise where Sarah ends up going on the arc this movie gives her. There is a balance here that doesn't lean too far in one direction so as to present a slanted view, but in all earnestness wants to create a big picture while getting the small details right in order to make it feel as honest as possible. read the whole review at

- fb1025970122, Friday, July 12, 2013

3 stars

Sarah: I'm unexpected. Being unexpected is the only advantage that matters. The East is a low-budget thriller about espionage and eco-terrorism. It comes from writer/director Zal Batmanglij and co-writer/star Brit Marling, who previously collaborated together on 2012's The Sound of My Voice. With that film, along with 2011's Another Earth, I have been quite impressed with Marling's work in features thus far, and The East continues that trend. Marling is quite good in this film, which has her playing a character living a dual life in order to infiltrate an anarchist collective. The rest of the film features some solid performances, interesting ideas, and a nice handle of its overall presentation as a sort of counterculture spy thriller. My only issue is how the film did not quite rise above anything like it. I can certainly appreciate a young director working with the goodwill he already has to make another original feature, but the film did not fully involve me in the same way the leader of The East was able to obtain full commitment from his crew. read the whole review at

- DrZeek, Friday, May 31, 2013

4 stars

The East, an eco-terrorist group, have been waging a war against unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies. Sarah Moss (Marling) is an operative for a private intelligence firm who infiltrates the group, staying with them in their remote wooded hideaway. Once undercover, Sarah begins to sympathize with their cause, while being shocked at their increasingly dangerous and aggressive methods. When she develops feelings for the group's unofficial leader Benji (Skarsgard), Sarah finds herself torn between The East and her employers. "If you live with white supremacists, you'll eventually sympathize with them", Sarah's boss tells her at one point of self-doubt. It's a knowing nod to Costa-Gavras' under-rated 1988 thriller 'Betrayed', in which Debra Winger plays an undercover FBI agent who falls for Tom Berenger's Klansman. Gavras' movie took the basic premise of Hitchcock's 'Notorious' but posed the question "What if Ingrid Bergman's spy fell in love with Claude Rains' Nazi?" Paul Verhoeven examined this in detail with his 2006 Dutch thriller, 'Black Book'. 'Donnie Brasco' took the premise and reworked it as a platonic bromance. It's a formula which has yielded overwhelmingly positive results, and 'The East' is no exception. As director and co-writer with his leading lady Marling, Batmanglij has announced himself as a film-maker to keep an eye on. With the exception of an unnecessary sub-plot involving Sarah's disillusioned boyfriend, the script is watertight and structurally sound enough to be held up as an example in screenwriting classes. There's no expository dialogue and we're never left scratching our heads trying to piece things together, a rarity in modern American cinema. We get some brilliant moments of visual storytelling, best of all a scene involving a unique dinner ritual. A set-piece with poisoned champagne would have Hitchcock smiling and when Sarah has to perform impromptu surgery on a gunshot victim it's made all the more tense having earlier shown her make a mess of gutting a deer for its meat. Marling caught my attention a couple of years ago in the impressive low budget sci-fi romance 'Another Earth' and she's appeared in thankless minor roles since. Here she proves a magnetic lead and acts the over-rated Ellen Page off the screen in their moments together. Swedish actor Skarsgard (son of Lars Von Trier regular Stellan) manages to make his character both creepy and sympathetic. My one complaint is the amount of make-up these characters wear. They may have a gripe with the pharmaceutical firms but it seemingly doesn't extend to the cosmetics industry.

- moviewaffle, Sunday, June 30, 2013