The undercover thriller is a familiar genre, but it rarely reaches its full potential. For a setting where betrayal and shifting sympathies are central to the plot, most of these stories only provide the semblance of a grey area. Yes, the terrorist is planning to destroy the western seaboard, but his kid died ten years ago, so he’s not all bad. This is an easy road to nominal dramatic conflict while still keeping the audience firmly supporting the hero. With their new film The East, director Zal Batmanglij and co-writer Brit Marling have played the undercover thriller to near-perfection by forcing the audience to sit uncomfortably as we wonder who should deserve our sympathies. Playing to the conventions of the genre stops The East from holding any major surprises, but Batmanglij and his strong cast always keep us riveted as we become as conflicted as the film’s protagonist. READ MORE...


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