“The East”
 We’re all jittery about terrorists right now.  What’s especially worrisome are the “homegrown” variety, the ones in our own society who have some kind of issue with the culture, and decide to take it out on the rest of us.
 “The East” is about a posse of eco-terrorists, who target rich executives of drug companies whose medicines produce untreatable side effects.  Or rich executives of manufacturing companies whose industrial waste not only harms the environment, but the people living nearby the plants.  The fact that this little hippie-commune-murderous-terrorist-gang has a few personal connections makes their crusade a little less idealistic and a little more vindictive.  But it’s still violent. And if they are harming people to protest harming people, how are they any different?
 Brit Marling plays Sarah, a counter-espionage operative, hired by a private security firm working with the FBI (do they even play well with others?), to infiltrate “The East” gang and discover who the operatives are.  Yes, she knows all about the Patty Hearst complex.  But that doesn’t mean she isn’t susceptible to a certain reluctant transference, anyway.
 Sarah feels the pull of being part of a small group that believes in something, and is willing to take action.  Because they live in a remote area by themselves, they’ve grown incredibly close to each other.  They sincerely believe that what they are doing is right, that they are the prophetic voice crying in the wilderness.  They are hostile to strangers and suspicious of Sarah as a newbie.  But gradually, she wins their trust, by becoming one of them.  Naturally, this leads to differentiation problems when she checks in with her boss, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson).  By the end, everyone’s boundaries are a little bit obscured, but that doesn’t mean that loathing of corporate greed isn’t real in the counter-culture.  And we’re not at all surprised that there might be counter-espionage efforts to smoke out the infiltrators.  In the midst of all this moral ambiguity, how to navigate with a strong personal integrity compass? 
 One endearing part of this film, for believers, is Sarah’s genuine spiritual life.  Yes, she actually prays, a couple of times, aloud.  Though there’s no invoking the names of any deities, still, it’s a winsome moment.  She prays that she will be delivered from her own arrogance, and yet still stay strong.  Well, a posture of personal humility is a good place to start in any prayer.
 Those who have close friends in a church fellowship will also recognize the yearning for connection in a group of like-minded companions.  But “church” is listed as the enemy here, along with corporations and yes, law enforcement.  Yes, it’s a sympathetic examination of a season of playing with anarchy. That makes this film a most unusual offering for a mainstream studio.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas