Cinema Review: The East

DIR:  Zal Batmanglij  WRI: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling  PRO: Michael Costigan, Jocelyn Hayes, Brit Marling , Ridley Scott , Tony Scott • DOP: Roman Vasyanov  ED: Bill Pankow, Andrew Weisblum  DES: Alex DiGerlando • CAST: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Patricia Clarkson


When Sarah (Brit Marling) gets a pair of Birkenstock shoes from her ice cool uber-boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), she knows that this is her shot at the big time – a chance to be a real player in the shady world of corporate private intelligence. Soon enough she’s lying goodbye to her boyfriend Tim (Jason Ritter) at the airport, dying her hair in the bathroom and coming out another door – she’s not going abroad, she’s going deep undercover to find out about The East, a group of media-savvy anarchists who are targeting major corporations.


Soon enough she’s hanging out with hippies, travelers and crusties, but then she meets Luca (Shiloh Fernandez), who takes her to a secret hideout in the woods – the home of the charismatic Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), suspicious Izzy (Ellen Page), sympathetic Doc (Brit actor Toby Kebbell) and others – all of whom have a taste for real revenge and, despite the cult-like air and some bizarre “bonding exercises,” are no lentil-chomping dropouts: they have some serious “jams” in the planning.


The first corporate victims get a dose of their own medicine – literally – and then a pair of industry bigwigs are forced to take a swim in their own polluted lake. It’s an eye for an eye, and though Sarah is quickly getting close to calling in the FBI, she’s found a bond with these people – and even has some sympathy with their ideas, and the evidence she sees that made them come to the conclusion their attacks are the only way the public will take notice. It helps of course that she’s attracted to Benji, but when one of the jams costs the life of one of the members, the group goes their separate ways – but you just know Sarah is going to be asked to go back under again. Only now does she want to go back for the right reasons?


Marling – who also co-wrote and co-produced this with director Batmanglij (and has written two other films including the cult hit Another Earth) – is clearly a roaring talent, and here she inhabits the role of the cold-hearted, all-business operative well, perhaps too well, as this is rather a cold movie, the only person you ever really feel remotely sympathetic to being the shaky-handed, brain-damaged Doc. Also, Sarah doesn’t really have as much at stake – or has lost as much – as everyone else, which makes her harder to care about.


It’s also perhaps a slight disappointment when it emerges that the jams are all targeted at the parents of The East members; it’s spoiled rich kid revenge to a greater extent then, something that explains the reason they can afford high-tech gear, a nice Mercedes and walking around money: high speed web access can’t be found when you go dumpster-diving.


That said, the film manages to walk the line well in what’s a controversial set-up. It doesn’t fall back on such easy clichés as explosions or choose a lazy reliance on sexual jealousy/romance re: Benji, but whether it will have you cheering for revolution when you see one of the victims of their jams – a cameo by Julia Ormond, who looks so extraordinarily like Marling that I thought that would be the late twist – is another matter.

Yes the chemical companies will undoubtedly and happily sacrifice all of us in return for profit, but just as tragic is the fact that we continue to elect corrupt politicians who are enslaved to the very same companies, and so do nothing about it. And as we know, resorting to terrorism only leads to more dead and wounded, and who needs environmental protection anyway?


James Bartlett

116 mins

15A (see IFCO website for details)

The East  is released on 28th June 2013

The East – Official Website




Cinema Review: Arbitrage


DIR/WRI: Nicholas Jarecki • PRO: Laura Bickford,
Robert Salerno, Kevin Turen, Justin Nappi  DOP: Yorick Le Saux  ED:
Douglas Crise  DES: Beth Mickle  Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim
Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker, Bruce Altman

As we look back over the past 12 months at some of the worst comedies
that have graced our cinema screens, there are two films that will
feature quite prominently. The Adam Sandler vehicle That’s My Boy and
the star-laden Movie 43 were widely panned by critics and audiences,
with the latter in particular sparking much debate about the
involvement of so many A-List performers in what was a seemingly
torturous experience for all concerned.

Theories have abounded as to how exactly the producers of Movie 43
(and indeed That’s My Boy) managed to secure the services of some many
talented actors and actresses, although Peter Farrelly’s explanation
that the participants of the former were ‘guilted to death’ is
probably the most plausible.

A-Listers appearing in films that seems well below their usual
standards is nothing new, however, and it is often suggested that they
agree to take part in certain films because they know a much more
worthy role is about to come their way.

Nicholas Jarecki’s debut feature, Arbitrage, could be viewed as one
such example, as it features top-of-the-range performances from Movie
43‘s Richard Gere and That’s My Boy star Susan Sarandon.

Gere takes on the role of Robert Miller, a multi-billionaire who
manages a hedge fund with his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), with
Sarandon co-starring as his long-suffering wife. With his 60th
birthday having just passed, Miller is locked in a deal to sell the
fund for an extremely large profit, but unbeknownst to those involved
in his company (including his own daughter), he has cooked his own
books in order to cover an investment loss, making his upcoming
transaction all the more crucial to his future.

If these dodgy dealings are discovered, he faces the possibility of
being imprisoned for fraud, but even greater trouble lurks on the
horizon for Miller when he is involved in a late-night car crash with
his mistress (Laetitia Casta). When she is killed as a result of the
impact, Miller abandons the scene (realising that he could be
implicated in her death), covers his tracks as much as possible, and
enlists the help of a friend from his past to drop him back to his New
York home.

His efforts to sweep this incident under the carpet are not entirely
successful, though, and the suspicion of his wife and NYPD detective
Detective Bryer (Tim Roth) are raised, leading to a hectic few days
for the troubled Miller.

On paper, the combination of novice filmmaker Jarecki and screen
veteran Richard Gere was a curious one that had the potential to
produce mixed results. However, it has turned out to be a winning
partnership as the 33-year-old Jarecki provides the tools for Gere to
construct one of the most engaging and richly textured performances of
his highly accomplished career to date.

In the past, his abilities as an actor has been the subject of intense
scrutiny, but Gere has always been at his best when playing conflicted
or morally ambiguous characters, with the most obvious examples being
his iconic roles in American Gigolo, Breathless, Internal Affairs and
Days of Heaven, as well as Lasse Hallstrom’s much underrated, The

The character of Robert Miller is very much in this mould, and the
Pennsylvania actor clearly relishes playing a man that has allowed
himself to become compromised on so many different levels.

However, one of the great traits that Gere has generated in his 38
years working in cinema is his likeability factor, and although there
are several moments throughout Arbitrage when your appreciation of a
two-timing, corrupt businessman are brought in to question, the Pretty
Woman star ensures that you symphatise heavily with his situation.

Arbitrage is by no means a solo effort, though, as Sarandon is also on
top form as the put upon spouse, who is not entirely enamoured with
the ventures that her husband and daughter are involved in, but
nonetheless benefits financially from her husband’s elevated status.

Marling (who is best known for strong central portrayal in the
indie-spirited Another Earth) provides plenty of brio and verve as
Miller’s offspring, while Roth is on hand to supply the appropriate
level of threat that the script requires.

There are occasional mis-steps in the overall package, but with strong
acting across the board, confident direction from Jarecki, and a
screenplay as sharp as anything you are likely to see in the early
months of 2013, Arbitrage is a highly accomplished offering from a
very promising director, and serves as a welcome reminder of what Gere
and Sarandon are capable of when they place themselves in the right

Daire Walsh

15A (see IFCO website for details)

Arbitrage is released on 1st March 2013

Arbitrage – Official Website