Director: Jeremy Saulnier.
Screenplay: Jeremy Saulnier.
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Macon Blair, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Mark Webber, Eric Edelstien, Michael Draper, Brent Werzner, Kai Lennox.
“You can’t keep us here, you gotta let us go”
After his little seen debut Murder Party in 2007, Jeremy Saulnier’s second film Blue Ruin took the film circuit by storm in 2013 and turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. It was a taught and very well constructed low-budget thriller that reached many people’s list of favourites (myself included). As is always the case, though, it brought much anticipation for his third feature. And deservedly so. The pressure was always on but by sticking to a winning formula, Saulnier again delivers a film that has much to recommend it. Punk band, The Ain’t Rights, get a last minute booking in a Neo-Nazi club deep in the backwoods of Oregon. What seems like a standard gig soon turns into something very dangerous when they witness a murder backstage. They take refuge in the Green Room, and finds themselves planning and negotiating with the club’s ruthless owner (Patrick Stewart) to ensure they walk out alive.As if there wasn’t enough attention surrounding what Saulnier would deliver next, this film also had some added publicity with leading actor Anton Yelchin – who died in a freak accident just after the film’s release. This adds a bittersweet feeling when watching him onscreen. His death was sad news but Green Room is a wonderful reminder of his talents. What works best with Saulnier’s structure, though, is that no one really takes centre stage. This is a siege film that benefits from not knowing which character will perish next and with films of this type, that always adds an extra layer of tension. With the help of Sean Porter’s gritty cinematography, Saulnier seems to build tension with ease by using a similar authenticity that Blue Ruin benefited greatly from. His characters feel genuine and he draws out some great performances. Much has been said about Yelchin or an imposing, cast-against-type, Patrick Stewart but it’s Blue Ruin‘s leading man Macon Blair that shines most. Blair is given less screen time here but he’s afforded a character who’s motivations change throughout the film and his subtlety and three-dimensional approach to the role is very impressive indeed.However, as the film went on I found it harder to invest in. Plot holes gradually crept in and credulity wained in the final third with a relayed paintball experience becoming integral to a particular character’s motivations which I found tenuous and a desperate attempt to dig itself out a hole. Some may disagree and have less of a problem with this but it felt jarring an unsatisfactory to me. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue had the film not set itself up so well but it’s solid premise and excellent early delivery almost draws attention to it’s flaws later on. I admire Saulnier’s chutzpah but, despite his flawless direction, his story eventually runs out of steam.That aside, Green Room still has plenty to offer. It may sound like I’m criticising but I’m merely pointing out problems that prevented it from becoming as astute and tightly wound as Saulnier’s previous output. To be fair to him, though, that’s a very hard act to follow.
What it lacks in depth it makes up for in well staged tension. Green Room ain’t no Blue Ruin but regardless of how you mix your colours, this is still an interesting and impressively handled thriller.Mark Walker
Trivia: The stance of the machete wielder in the poster references The Clash’s “London Calling” album cover with bassist Paul Simonon smashing a guitar.