Movie Review: “Green Room”

Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Macon Blair
Jeremy Saulnier

Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore feature “Blue Ruin” established him as a director to keep an eye on. The revenge tale was a brutal, dramatically rich and intense thriller. With his third feature, “Green Room,” Saulnier dials things up a few notches, delivering his most propulsive and unshakeable experience yet.

Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) are members of the punk rock band The Ain’t Rights, a group barely scraping by to get from gig to gig. After an embarrassing performance at a Mexican restaurant, the group gets desperate and, against their better judgement, end up playing at a bar packed with white supremacists, led by the imposing but calm Darcy Banker (Sir Patrick Stewart). After the band members witness a murder in the green room (a.k.a. the waiting room for musicians), they must fight to survive the night with the assistance of Amber (Imogen Poots), a mysterious but incredibly capable and violent friend of the deceased.

With a brisk 95-minute runtime, Saulnier’s film is a well-oiled thriller without a single ounce of fat on it. Every scene, every shot and every character helps build this driving energy, which manages to keep growing throughout the film. There are no narrative pit stops in “Green Room” — it’s just mean and lean storytelling, rarely ever allowing the characters to catch their breath and collect their thoughts. This story is always on the move, even when the lead ensemble is stuck in the green room for a large portion of the film.

Before the punk band even tries to leave the waiting room to escape, things escalate quickly. When the inciting incident goes down, the stakes and rules are crystal clear. Saulnier is not going to make this an easy fight for the characters, and because of that, it’s easy to buy into the reality of “Green Room.” The sense of danger, at every turn, is both palpable and unnerving. All of the characters begin to fear for their lives, as they should, which makes the stakes all the more human and terrifying.

The reality of the film is entirely lived-in and believable, from the raggedy clothes the characters wear, to the Neo-Nazis’ dark and smoky bar, to even the refreshingly sparse exposition. When Darcy hands one of his followers a pair of red shoe laces, he doesn’t spell out what it means to the audience – that they’re laces skinheads earn for shedding blood for their cause. The character wouldn’t do that, and Saulnier doesn’t betray the character by having him do so. The dialogue is always concise and to-the-point, almost hilariously so. I won’t spoil the scene itself, but there is a moment where one of the punk rockers, when the tables slightly turn, asks Amber, “Are we really going to do this?” Her one-word response tells the audience more about Amber – who’s played ferociously and confidently by Poots – than a whole speech would have.

Saulnier is a “less is more” kind of filmmaker, and “Green Room” has a raw, unflinching spirit to it – one that’s always exciting to watch, despite the brutality of it all. Saulnier never goes for huge shootouts or anything like that because, really, he doesn’t need to. The richly drawn characters are enough spectacle, and watching them try to work their way through this unpredictable narrative is far more exciting than most of the big, flashy set pieces we typically see this time of year.


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