It’s almost too tempting to compare Greta Gerwig and Brit Marling, indie-bred actresses who also occasionally write their own movies. Both are smart, pretty, and rising fast. But where Gerwig, the star of Frances Ha, can tap a loosey-goosey and expertly comic side, Marling is serious enough to be unnerving. And thus far, this eerily focused actress has chosen exceptionally somber material. She co-wrote and starred in Another Earth and Sound of My Voice. Those films are unusual numbers, thoughtful and ambitious if not completely realized, and Marling’s enigmatic performances are part of their effect.
Marling teams once more with Sound of My Voice director Zal Batmanglij for The East, another intense piece that operates on a bigger scale. (“Bigger scale” must be contractually guaranteed when you add Ridley and Tony Scott as producers.) Things are quite grim again. Hired by a private intelligence agency to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group called The East, Sarah (Marling) rolls into the unwashed ranks of these self-styled environmental avengers.