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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 , Elliot 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A lot of the sign language between Sarah and Eve is untranslated.
  • 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.
  • Dies Wide Open: Izzy is buried with her eyes wide open.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Izzy is buried naked.
  • Eco-Terrorist: The East are a collective of these, using criminal means to attack and terrorize people from corporations that have caused harm.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: Sharon sees breaking up the East as a potential way to rope in no clients.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The East wear masks of their enemies several times, which makes them look creepy, though they themselves are morally ambiguous.
  • MegaCorp:
    • 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Hawkstone CEO, after being kidnapped By his own daughter and having the illegal dumping of his company thrown in his face, willingly submerges himself in the toxic water. On the flip side, seeing this causes Izzy to have a breakdown.
  • Obliviously Evil: Hiller-Brood's job involves protecting vast corporations from slander and attacks by people like The East. Sarah is disgusted to realize that most, if not all, of their clients are actually guilty though, strengthening her ties to the group. The ending also indicates That her undercover coworkers are the same way, and that some of them are actually willing to help bring down the companies they've been protecting after seeing proof of wrongdoing.
  • 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.
  • Predatory Big Pharma: One of the East's targets is a pharmaceutical company, McCabe-Grey. They marketed an anti-malaria drug that Doc prescribed to his beloved sister, unaware that the fine print warned that it could lead to horrific side effects. Upon her health and sanity being destroyed, she was Driven to Suicide. Doc himself also develops the same side effects, as does the Pharma exec that The East targets.
  • Private Detective: This is Sarah Moss/Jane Owen's job, and why she's infiltrating the East.
  • Private Intelligence Agency: The film's protagonist Sarah Moss is an operative of one named Hiller-Brood who's infiltrating the titular ecoterrorists which is hired by various corporations they targeted, but begins to agree with The East over time, changing sides by the end and getting fellow operatives to help them from within.
  • 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.
  • Team Title: The titular group is an anarchist organization.
  • White Mask of Doom: The East wear black-and-white prints of their marks' faces, with "guilty" scrawled over their foreheads.