The East is a Dutch War drama that focuses on the story of one Johan de Vries, a soldier in the Dutch army who’s stationed in Indonesia. The film is set in the 1940s after the conclusion of World War Two and the Dutch army is taking back its colonial holdings in Indonesia from the Japanese and quelling any resistance from local revolutionary terrorist cells. Johan de Vries quickly starts to make a name for himself in the ranks and begins to impress an allusive officer known only as “The Turk”. From this point on de Vries becomes entangled in a dark world of sabotage and war crimes all in the name of peace and freedom for the Dutch Colony. This story is also intercut with what happens to de Vries when he returns home from service.
When one thinks of the modern day Netherlands, its often thoughts of a very liberal and accepting nation with the bohemian capital city of Amsterdam at the forefront. It’s hard to believe that in this country’s past there was a history of horrible war crimes against an indigenous people. Film fans who’ve seen their fair share of Vietnam War films will certainly get deja vu watching The East. There’s horrific scenes of villages and families in a south east Asian nation being burnt and torn apart by swarms of armed men. Of course this film does cover much of the same ground as a movie like Platoon, with the depiction of war crimes and one sided conflicts and a film like Born On The Forth Of July, with its themes of how society treats its veterans. Though simply the nationality of its production adds a whole new layer to this sadly familiar story.
With a run time of two hours and twenty minutes, The East can seem like a daunting watch. Especially when you factor in the fact that it comes from a film industry that hasn’t got anywhere near the same amount of money as a lot of its neighbouring countries. This goes tenfold when you see that not all the scenes are completely necessary, giving the film a slight pacing issue. There’s a segment near the end of the film that does get slightly repetitive along with a few scenes here and there that don’t really add much to any of the characters. Add all of this while considering that the film isn’t massively creatively directed; there’s no amazing cinematography or composition to write home about. However, it is well acted and written for the most part with a main character in Johan de Vries that’s a compelling watch to take you through this harrowing story.
The East is a dark story of colonialism, war and atrocities. It’s a very angry look at a past that’s seemingly been forgotten by a lot of the world but does its best to reveal these nasty truths. Though the film can be slow at points, it’s worth a watch simply just to hear this intriguing but familiar story unfold.
The East will release on October 4th.