Movie Review: ‘The East’

Review by James Lindorf

The Dutch West India Company is much more widely known than its Dutch East India Company counterpart. Still, from the 16th century until after World War 2, Indonesia was under Dutch rule. Weakened by the Japanese occupation during the war, the Dutch control was tenuous at best. In 1947 a young Dutch soldier joined an elite unit led by a mysterious captain known only as “The Turk.” With fighting between the soldiers and the rebels becoming increasingly violent, the young soldier finds himself questioning his commander’s brutal strategy. “The East” tells the story of what he experienced and the actions of “The Turk” that would lead the Netherlands to issue an official apology and offer reparations to the families of the resistance fighters. “The East” will be available in select theaters and on streaming platforms around the world beginning August 13th.

Trying to learn all the details of post-World War II colonialism is a task best left to historians. Luckily you don’t need to know the particulars of this incident to understand the conflict and the motivations. On paper, “The East” draws comparisons to Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now or Oliver Stone’s Platoon. All three films center on white people trying to exert control over people of color in their own country and are flush with the level of racism you’d expect. All three also feature enigmatic and brutal leaders who blur the lines between duty and war crimes. However, The comparisons end there because “The East” is the most uncharismatic and dull war movie I have ever seen.

The creative team behind it, including director and co-writer Jim Taihuttu and his fellow writer Mustafa Duygulu, know it. Most of the soldier’s questioning is done in silence via a 1,000-yard stare and a blank face that does nothing to convey his inner turmoil. Adding to that ineffectual display is the fact that the “big” event that changes the young soldier’s stance and beliefs consists of a single bullet fired off-screen into a friend. Snipers are terrifying, but it is treated as a person or group of people just on the other side of the bushes, but no further contact is made. After that scintillating display of violence, the movie takes a step back, with almost all of the remaining action taking place while the characters are seated.

Credit goes to the location scouts, second-team people, costume designers, and extras. The setting is beautiful, the period-accurate uniforms and equipment are great, and the acting of the people playing the villagers is the best in the film. Unfortunately, the rest of the creative decisions did not do justice to the massacre that took place, and much like the colonization of Indonesia, “The East” lasted entirely too long.

Genre: War, Drama, Mystery & Thriller
Original Language: Dutch
Director: Jim Taihuttu
Producer: Shanty Harmayn, Julius Ponten, Benoit Roland, Sander Verdonk
Writer: Jim Taihuttu, Mustafa Duygulu
Release Date: August 13th
Runtime: 2h 20m

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