Thursday, November 23, 2017
Things To Do

Review: All signs point to 'The East' for thrilling mystery

RECOMMENDED READING


The East (PG-13) (116 min.) — Debate sparked by recent National Security Agency leaks — is Edward Snowden a traitor or hero? — is coincidentally echoed in The East, the second collaboration between director Zal Batmanglij and his co-writer-star Brit Marling.

The East is also about a cult of sorts, named for an anarchist collective waging ecoterrorism on corporations endangering the public. Their first act of protest is simple trespassing and vandalism, dumping crude oil in the home of an industrialist after a BP-level spill. Later the group's tactics turn toward the deadly, as stakes rise with chemical and pharmaceutical poisonings. An eye for an eye, as the East's credo proclaims.

Marling plays Sarah, an undercover agent working for a security firm hired by corporations to prevent such protests. Hand-picked by the firm's steely supervisor (Patricia Clarkson), Sarah infiltrates the East, sharing their communal, counterculture lifestyle — like hippies with a cause — and eventually assisting their "jams," as the revenge plots are called. Leading the East is Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), a lean and hungry sort complicating Sarah's mission.

Marling and Batmanglij's screenplay is a model of moral and ethical conflict in a medium where heroes and villains are typically sharply defined. There is never any doubt that the corporations in question put greed before the public good and should be found out, or that the East is a criminal organization whose members deserve jail time. Which side commits the larger sin? Snowden's lawyers and prosecutors could present this movie as a jury selection tool, should he ever go to court.

Marling's subtle expression of complex characters never ceases to fascinate. Sarah is her most conflicted role so far, and it's tough detecting if she's playing along with the East to protect her cover or buying into their anarchist mentality. Batmanglij keeps that mystery humming, suspenseful and tight. The movie loses steam and credibility when protest turns personal but until then The East is a crackling thriller and a political statement tough to peg. A- (Woodlands 20 in Oldsmar, BayWalk 20 in St. Petersburg, Citrus Park 20 in Tampa)

Steve Persall, Times movie critic

     
Comments
Brian Setzer talks Christmas tours, Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and more

Brian Setzer talks Christmas tours, Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and more

Brian Setzer knows he's overdue for a trip to Florida.For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area. ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

1. Gem, Jewelry and Bead Show and Sale: Check out these rocks when more than 50 dealers from around the United States sell crystals, minerals, beads, gems and jewelry. $5. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TodayCollege footballMississippi at Mississippi State7:30 p.m.ESPNCollege basketballMissouri vs. Long Beach State11:30 a.m.ESPN2Tennessee vs. Villanova12:30 p.m.ESPNSt. John’s vs. Oregon State2 p.m.ESPNUPortland vs. North Carolina2:30 p.m.ESPNNorth C...
Published: 11/22/17
What’s in theaters for Thanksgiving: ‘Coco,’ ‘Last Flag Flying,’ ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

What’s in theaters for Thanksgiving: ‘Coco,’ ‘Last Flag Flying,’ ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

NOW IN THEATERS:COCODisney-Pixar’s animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn’t as good as its intentions.Migu...
Published: 11/22/17
Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer knows he’s overdue for a trip to Florida. For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area....
Published: 11/22/17
Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

This Black Friday weekend, you can head to your local shopping center and fight traffic to get the perfect gift. Or you can stay at home by your computer and give the gift of entertainment.A handful of Tampa Bay concert venues are offering ticket dea...
Published: 11/22/17
This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

SWINGIN’ AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE: Brian Setzer OrchestraWhen you spend 13 straight Thanksgivings on the road, you build some traditions with your crew. "We get a big ballroom," said Brian Setzer. "I don’t know how many turkeys we go through, but ev...
Published: 11/22/17
Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that aren’t Thanksgiving

Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that aren’t Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day!Or is it? Sometimes life just doesn’t come together at 2 p.m. on Thursday.Circumstances mean it’s not always possible to sit around the table on Thanksgiving, a family in a Publix ad smiling over a glistening bird. Maybe family is ou...
Published: 11/22/17
Watch the unseen footage in ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ trailer

Watch the unseen footage in ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ trailer

Can we all agree that John Hughes' Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the ultimate Thanksgiving movie? (And maybe actually his best movie of the '80s? Think about it.) And though I'm sure many of us will be watching it again this holiday weekend, when...
Published: 11/22/17
4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

Perhaps you have relatives in town for the weekend, and you’re running out of ways to entertain them. Or maybe you’re wondering what to do with your long weekend. There’s a perfect solution for either scenario: Go see some art. There’s plenty on vi...
Published: 11/22/17