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The-East-1“The East” is a new political thriller that plays like a mix between “The Bourne Identity” and “Tailor Tinker Soldier Spy.” That is to say, it’s a tense thriller that values smarts over action.

Britt Marling stars as corporate spy Jane Owen, code name Sarah. Her latest job involves going deep undercover to infiltrate a shadowy group of eco-terrorists called The East. The collective—think real life activists Anonymous—run by the charismatic anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), is on the eve of their biggest demonstration yet, an act of sabotage that will make headlines and make a very public statement of their anti-corporate stance.

Sarah is accepted by the group, save for the truculent Izzy (Ellen Page), and begins to develop Stockholm syndrome. Or does she?

It’s a morally complex movie, with Sarah at the center of the ethical hurricane as she starts to question her role as both a spy and a would-be member of the radical group. She weighs the morality of both sides and… well, go see the movie.

“The East” deliberately paints shades of grey into the story, allowing for good and bad, evil and sympathetic characters on both sides. It may be too nuanced for folks who like their spy stories to take sides, but Sarah, as the source of the plot’s push-and-pull, is too complex a creation to play it straight. Marling brings strength and fighting spirit to Sarah in a performance that could finally make her a star.

“The East” has good performances all round—Skarsgård and Page are particularly effective—and there’s enough turns to hold interest, although the events leading up the final showdown lack credibility. Nonetheless, it’s good, thought provoking stuff that doesn’t look for easy or obvious answers.

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