Back home in Washington, Jane has a scruffy, sensitive, bland boyfriend. Out in the woods, she falls under the spell of Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), who is scruffy, sensitive and dangerous. While the East, being a group of anarchists, has no formal leader, Benji is clearly the alpha dog. His main lieutenants are an elfin zealot named Izzy (Ellen Page) and Doc (Toby Kebbell), a troubled former medical student. All of them come from relatively privileged backgrounds and have painful, intimate reasons for taking up the cause.I wish Benioff and Weiss would cast Kebbell as Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne.
This intimation of large, lurking danger is appropriate to this movie’s vague environmental theme. The damaged, idealistic young people plotting to terrorize the wealthy and comfortable are seen as canaries in the coal mine, their rage a sign that something is terribly wrong. But their animus is also explained in ways that strain credibility and undermine the film’s topicality. Benji, Izzy and Doc are motivated by grief, filial resentment and a desire for revenge. For them the political is personal, which makes it a little less urgent for everybody else.
But it may be asking too much of “The East” — which is, after all, a twisty, breathless genre film — to wish that it would frame the contradictions of contemporary capitalism more rigorously. The movie is aware that they exist, and wishes that they could be resolved more or less happily, which is hard to argue with, though also hard to believe.