A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The East is a thriller about a spy who infiltrates a violent eco-terrorist group and becomes involved with its members. The movie doesn't specifically condone this anarchist behavior, though it's clearly angry about irresponsible corporate behavior and suggests that other solutions may be possible. There's not much fighting or shooting, but some blood is shown, and there are some strong images and dangerous acts. Some sexual situations arise, and nudity is suggested but rarely shown. Language is minimal, and a "natural" sleeping drug is used on the heroine. The movie's reactionary message will likely appeal to many teens; hopefully it will inspire good deeds instead of destructive ones.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sarah (Brit Marling) works as a secret agent for a private intelligence firm; her job is so hush-hush that she can't even tell her boyfriend. Her latest assignment is to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group called "The East," whose crimes are designed to mirror the crimes that corporate entities have committed upon the world (poisoning the water, releasing deadly drugs on the market, etc.). She succeeds in joining the group and convincing them of her sincerity, but she finds herself falling for the group's charismatic leader, Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), and he for her. Things get even more complicated when one of the group's members, Izzy (Ellen Page), designs an attack (called "jams") that's a little too personal.
Is it any good?
If it weren't for the ludicrous ending, this film might be nearly outstanding. The incredible Marling, who wrote (or co-wrote) the screenplays for Another Earth and Sound of My Voice -- as well as producing and starring -- moves into a slightly bigger budget bracket with THE EAST, though the mood is still the same: thoughtful and emotionally risky. Like Sound of My Voice, the concept here is also the infiltration of a cult.
However, the plotting of The East has also advanced a bit more toward Hollywood. Most of the movie works like gangbusters, with Sarah's journey taking precedence over the anti-corporate messages. Her involvement with the cult and with Benji grows ever stranger and more precarious as the "jams" get more dangerous. Unfortunately, the filmmakers felt the need to tack on a fairly overcooked ending that feels both rushed and ridiculous. It knocks the entire movie down a few pegs, but there's still a lot here to admire -- and to think about.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Families can talk about The East's somewhat violent eco-terrorist, anti-corporate message. How do the movie's main characters justify their actions? Are they right, or is there a better way to get involved?
- How does the anarchist collective demonstrate teamwork? How about trust? How does Sarah prove that she can be a member of their team?
- Who are the "good guys" and "bad guys" in this story? After a while, does the anarchist collective seem bad? Does Sarah's boss seem good?
- In theaters: May 31, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: September 17, 2013
- Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Brit Marling, Ellen Page
- Director: Zal Batmanglij
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, violence, some disturbing images, sexual content and partial nudity
For kids who love doing good in the world
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.