A sobering thriller that puts many human faces on an international crisis, Megan Griffiths’ assuredly directed indie “Eden” tracks the experience of Korean American teenager Hyun Jae (Jamie Chung) after she’s kidnapped by a sex slave ring. Labeled Eden by a shady federal marshal (Beau Bridges, chilling) in charge of the operation, she’s transported from New Mexico to Nevada, held captive in a storage facility with other degraded young women and overseen by a short-tempered, drug-addicted striver named Vaughn (a mesmerizing Matt O’Leary).
“Eden” is never less than suspenseful, but rather than sentimentally pander to easy outrage, or indulge in icky women-in-distress titillation, the movie — based on a true story, and set in the mid-'90s — zeros in on the details of how dignity can be stripped like bark from a tree, and the queasy determination it takes to stay alive in a living hell. From the girls’ makeshift cells to the white vans that take them, shackled, across empty deserts to the fearsome playgrounds of paying customers (suburban houses, frat parties, a private jet to god knows where), Griffiths lays bare a many-tentacled trafficking system sickening in its reach.
But the story is in Chung’s eyes too, as Hyun Jae gradually learns enough to push humiliation and fear aside and plot an escape.
“Eden.” MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content involving human trafficking, language and drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. Playing at Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills.