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Film / The East

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"Lie to us, we'll lie to you. Poison us, we'll poison you."

The East is an eco-thriller released in 2013, written by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård , Ellen Page and Shiloh Fernandez.

Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) is an operative working for a private intelligence firm who is assigned to infiltrate an anarchist collective named The East, known for carrying out covert attacks on major corporations. Living among them in an effort to get closer to their members, Sarah finds herself unexpectedly torn between two worlds as she starts to fall in love with the group’s charismatic unofficial leader.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Atoner: The first jam is initiated by Doc, and consists of feeding a pharmaceutical company some of it's own medicine. Doc prescribed this medicine as an antimalarial to his sister while she was working in Kenya. She suffered brain damage so bad she killed herself. Then he used the medicine on himself and became plagued by seizures and other deteriorations in health.
  • After-Action Healing Drama: After Izzy gets shot by security guards while escaping after the second jam, Doc has to guide Sarah through removing the bullet because his hands are shaking too badly to remove it himself. While Sarah is successful in removing the bullet, Izzy dies anyway.
  • And Starring: Patricia Clarkson, who plays the "de-facto Big Bad".
  • Arc Words: Makes use of them liberally.
    • "We are The East. We don’t care how rich you are. We want all those who’re guilty to experience the terror of their crime. It’s easy when it’s not your life. Easy when it’s not your home. But when it’s your fault, it shouldn’t be so easy to sleep at night — especially when we know where you live. Lie to us, we’ll lie to you. Spy on us, we’ll spy on you. Poison us, we’ll poison you."
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  • Attempted Rape: Porty tries this once Sarah's in a room alone with him, but she quickly takes him down.
  • Badass Boast:
    Sharon: Who should I choose ?
    Sarah: Me. I'm unexpected. Being unexpected is the only advantage that matters.
  • Beautiful All Along: Benji, before the first jam.
  • Becoming the Mask: Sarah's boss notes that some degree of this is normal for an undercover agent, but Sarah goes just about all the way in.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Tess.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A lot of the sign language between Sarah and Eve is untranslated.
  • Bi the Way: Most of the sexual chemistry in the East is same-sex, but Benji is the only one who seems to be open in both directions. He freely gives Luca a romantic kiss on request, kisses Tess on her belly button and has sex with Sarah.
  • Black and Gray Morality
  • Blackmail: When Eve discovers Sarah spying on the group, Sarah threatens her that as an undercover operative, she can have her arrested and put in prison for life as a 'terrorist'. Eve keeps her mouth shut and leaves the next morning.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Izzy.
  • Dies Wide Open: Izzy is buried with her eyes wide open.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Izzy is buried naked.
  • Hipsters: The East looks superficially like a bunch of hipsters, though they don't seem to consume any pop culture and Sarah specifically notes that they don't smoke pot.
  • Foreshadowing: Izzy tries to guide Sarah in gutting a dear, but she fails. Sarah later must cut open Izzy's stomach under the direction of Doc. She manages to remove the bullet, but Izzy dies anyway.
  • Green Aesop: While Sarah ultimately rejects the East's extreme methods, she does become a crusader for environmental protection.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The East give the pharmaceutical corporation leaders a literal taste of their own medicine.
  • Homage: The dinner test they play on Sarah is taken from the allegory of the long spoons.
  • The Infiltration
  • In Love with the Mark: Sarah for Benji.
  • Instant Sedation: Izzy puts a man to sleep in a few seconds with what is clearly an intramuscular injection.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The East wear masks of their enemies several times, which makes them look creepy, though they themselves are morally ambiguous.
  • The Medic: Fittingly nicknamed Doc.
  • Mega-Corp:
    • Hiller-Brood, the private intelligence firm that Jane/Sarah works for. It is implied they operate all across the globe.
    • Hawkstone, a petrochemical company whose dumping of toxic waste into water reservoirs has caused civilians who drink it to develop cancer and various other illnesses. It is later revealed that Izzy is the estranged daughter of the company's CEO.
    • McCabe-Grey, a pharmaceutical company who has contracts with the US military. They produced the antibiotic Dioxin taken by Doc, which causes seizures and neural damage as side effects.
  • Only the Worthy May Pass: As an entry test, Sarah is put through a version of the allegory of the long spoons: She has to wear a straight jacket and eat without her hands. She attempts to eat like a dog, but then sees the others holding the spoon in their mouths for each other, resulting in her first discovery of the selflessness of The East.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Sarah must perform surgery under the direction of Doc, whose hands are too shaky to do it himself.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: "Lie to us, we'll lie to you. Spy on us, we'll spy on you. Poison us, we'll poison you."
  • Police Brutality: The railway police who capture Sarah/Jane and other drifters at the start of the film beat the group rather badly with truncheons.
  • Private Detective: Sarah Moss/Jane Owen.
  • Playful Hacker: Tess.
  • Read the Fine Print: The reason Doc was unable to sue McCabe-Grey for what their antibiotic, Dioxin, did to him and his sister was because its debilitating side effects (including seizures and brain damage) were listed on the side of the box.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: The East in general, but Sarah/Jane reacts most strongly to Benji.
  • Spy Fiction
  • Team Title: The titular group is an anarchist organization.
  • The Unfettered: Izzy.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out: After Izzy is shot. Subverted; she dies anyway.
  • Western Terrorists
  • White Mask of Doom: The East wear black-and-white prints of their marks' faces, with "guilty" scrawled over their foreheads.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Luca.


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