The East (2013)

Jane, whose cover identity is Sarah Moss (Brit Marling), is a former FBI agent who now works as an operative for the private intelligence firm Hiller Brood, headed by Sharon (Patricia Clarkson). Under the pretext of going to Dubai, Sarah is dropped off at Dulles Airport. Instead of going through security Sarah descends to Arrivals where she takes a cab to a motel. At the motel she begins the process of going undercover to become a traveler. Disguised, she hits the road in search of The East (an underground activist group) with the mission to locate their headquarters and feed information about the group to Hiller Brood in order for Sharon to protect her corporate clients. While riding the rails Sarah encounters a posse of rag-tag drifters, who are roughly dispersed by railroad police. In the process, she winds up in Luca’s (Shiloh Fernandez) van and deduces that he must be a member of The East from a compass on his rear-view mirror that points only east. While Luca searches nearby dumpsters for food, Sarah cuts her own arm with a discarded Coke can. When Luca returns to the van he notices blood on Sarah’s sleeve and wants to see her arm. Sarah reveals the gash claiming she got it from jumping the fence earlier. Luca insists on taking Sarah to see a doctor. He blindfolds her and drives her to an abandoned house in the woods where a member of The East nicknamed Doc (Toby Kebbell) seals Sarah’s cut with Super Glue.

Sarah is given two nights to recover before she is to leave the squat. During the two days Sarah secretly observes a ritual by the groups members. She is caught spying by Eve and has a conversation in sign language with her. Sarah tells Eve that she is an under cover agent and correctly guesses that Eve’s real name is Jessica. Sarah threatens Eve with jail if she stays with the group. Eve leaves the next morning. Sarah is recruited to fill the missing member’s role on a “jam”. After seeing the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical jam compounded by her growing attraction to the charismatic Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) Sarah gradually questions the moral underpinnings of her undercover duty. Sarah reluctantly participates in The East’s next jam and comes to learn that each of The East has been personally damaged by corporate activities. For example, Doc has been poisoned by an antibiotic and his neurosystem is degenerating.

One East member, Izzy (Ellen Page), is the daughter of a petrochemical CEO. The group therefore uses the father/daughter connection to gain access to the CEO and forces him to bathe in the waterway he has been using as a toxic dumping ground. This jam goes wrong when security guards arrive and shoot Izzy in the back as she and The East try and escape. Back at the squat, the Doc’s hands tremble too much and therefore he cannot perform surgery on Izzy. Sarah offers to do it for him if he tells her what to do. She bravely removes the bullet from Izzy’s abdomen, yet nonetheless Izzy dies and is buried near The East’s house.

Even though Sarah and Benji have fallen in love and Sarah implores him to run away with her, he insists that they go together to complete the final jam. Sarah refuses at first but finally gives in and the two head by car for the last jam. When Sarah awakens, after a night of sleeping in the passenger seat, she realizes that Benji is driving her to the Hiller Brood headquarters outside Washington, D.C. He reveals that he has always suspected her of being an agent and that Luca brought her in on purpose because he too suspected her of being a Hiller Brood operative. Benji wants Sarah to obtain a NOC list of Hiller Brood agents all over the world. This is The East’s third and final jam. Sarah confronts Sharon about the firm’s activities, thus revealing her new allegiances and Sharon has Sarah’s cell phone confiscated as she leaves the building. As Hiller Brood was sharing information about their activities with the FBI, in the meantime they raid the hideout detaining only Doc, who thereby ensured the getaway of the remaining members. Sarah tells Benji she’s failed to get the agent data, because they disagree on the way to utilize the list, and they part at a truck stop as he heads out of the country. In truth, Sarah still has the data and the film ends with an epilogue of her personally contacting her former coworkers and attempting to change their minds about their undercover activities and instead join her in ecological activism.

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