More than a decade after 9/11, terrorism has become pop culture’s dirty little secret of escapist fantasy. Almost every year now, a new film comes along that glorifies or tantalizes its audience with the forbidden taste of wanton destruction. Whether in the shape of Joker, Bane, Javier Bardem or this summer’s reinvention of Khan, audiences like a macabre tale that lets them revel in a society set on fire, before a moralistic coda reassures them that they are above such nihilistic cravings.
Director Zal Batmanglij and his co-writer/leading lady Brit Marling seek to offer no such easy ethics or comforting answers in their eco-terrorist flick, The East. Opening today in select cities, the creative duo paints a vividly real world where punkish anarchism gives way to a disquieting retaliation against the “One Percent.” If this beatnik group of revolutionaries should be considered chilling villains or heroic protagonists will depend entirely on each individual viewer.