Going undercover in ‘The East’

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The East” is a watchably confused eco-thriller that’s never sure who its heroes are. The villains are easy enough to spot: Oil company CEOs, pharmaceutical corporations, toxic power companies. Against them, the film envisions a band of anarcho-idealists who call themselves “The East” and strike back with “jams” like filling the oil company CEO’s house with his own crude. And against them is Jane Owen (Brit Marling), a dewy young operative for a private consulting company who is sent to infiltrate the group.

The movie’s torn between depicting its characters as Truth Warriors and confused children of privilege, and the ambiguity seems only partly intentional. Because Zal Batmanglij is a skilled director, you don’t fully realize “The East” is nonsense until it’s over. With Alexander Skarsgård and Ellen Page.

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