Green Room is a masterpiece, it has the sort of rawness and vision that is meant to announce the arrival of a fresh new talent. It is an essential piece of filmmaking from the soon to be great Jeremy Saulnier (director of Blue Ruin). It’s the kind of film that you’re glad you found, and the kind of film that gets you excited about movies.
A punk band from D.C. (amongst them Anton Yelchin, who was Chekhov from the most recent Star Trek, and Alia Shawkat, who was Maeby from Arrested Development) is touring in the Pacific Northwest. They are short on funds, and have to siphon gas from their car. A music journalist who interviews the band points them (called the Aint Rights) towards a high paying gig at a venue ran by white supremacists. (While Punk Rock is primarily anti-fascist, you’d be hard pressed to not run into at least one skinhead when touring at various venues).
When they finish their set, one of the people working there begins to force them out; alas, Yelchin’s character Pat forgets his phone and goes back into the Green Room, where he sees a young woman with a knife right through her head. The white supremacists end up trapping them in the green room, and things steadily descend downhill from there.
The violence in Green Room is sudden, and it is shocking. There is a concentrated effort with movies now, and you see this a lot, to make death consumable, to make it commercial. When a character dies in Green Room; the viewer is appalled, they are saddened, and eventually grow numb to it. This is intentional on Saulnier’s part, the film has similar themes to books like The Lord of the Flies, with characters that grow accustomed to the violent world placed upon them by egregious circumstances, and the moral numbness that comes with committing such grotesque acts.
Also impressive about Green Room and about Saulnier as a filmmaker is how he plays with genre expectations. Saulnier will set something up via foreshadowing, you will continue to think this thing is going to come into play later, and then he will subvert it and nothing will happen. Characters you think will be in the movie longer will get offed suddenly and shockingly.
A great many of the performances are career milestones from those involved. I never disliked Anton Yelchin, but he never left an impression on me, as a lead he was a complete milquetoast. In Green Room however; he is electric on screen, nervous, uncertain, sweaty and desperate. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Imogen Poots also hits a career high note as the debatably reliable Amber, whom was one of the friends of the murdered girl who kicks the crux of the story into gear.
I was admittedly a little disappointed by Patrick Stewart as the leader of the white supremacist group. I was hoping for some big dramatic scene from him, something that might justify him being there. He is good, make no mistake, but his performance is extremely restrained, which ends up complimenting the tone of the movie, but it did not fulfill my expectation of Stewart as a personality.
GREEN ROOM is an independent marvel. It is nearing the end of its run in Omaha, but it is still playing at the AMC Westroads. It is the kind of film that a moviegoer feels proud for discovering, and it is one of the most engaging and provocative experiences you can have in a theater right now.
Just don’t take a date.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Rating: R for strong, brutal, graphic violence; gory images; language; and some drug content
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes