By Darin Skaggs
In Jeremy Saulnier’s previous work, Blue Ruin, he takes a look at a realistic view on revenge and the consequences of having and committing to those dark impulses. It had plenty of disturbing and shocking moments of violence, which added to all the themes. In his new film, Green Room he sticks with the rough take at violence. Except being a choice made to right some wrongs, this time around it is explored through a means of defense as a powerful force endangers one’s life. All the while as he does this, he also creates a suspenseful, often brilliant horror film that is all the more terrifying due to the fact that there is no supernatural monster ready to suck your blood dry or eat your brains, but a group of men just cleaning up a mess they made.
The movie follows a punk band named The Ain’t Rights who consist of blue haired, class clown like lead singer Tiger (Callum Turner), sarcastic guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), tough, frustrated drummer Reece (Joe Cole) and insecure bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin). They are down on their luck when we meet up with them waking up with their van in a corn field, ending up stealing gas from a bowling alley parking lot early in the morning and performing in a small diner for little pay. A mohawked patron who interviewed them earlier feels pity for them and sends them to a show that could pay fairly well. The only problem is the venue is where a large group of skinheaded Neo-Nazis gather. They go anyway, in desperate need of the money. The show goes well, and on the way back to the green room they find their equipment out in the hallway and are being forced out. Sam forgets her phone and Pat goes in to grab it for her, accidentally walking in on a group of tough looking towering men, a young lady with tears streaming down her face and another young woman on the ground with a knife stuck in her head. After a failed attempt to call the police the band get locked in the green room until the skinheads figure out what to do with the new dilemma.
The film gets more violent and disturbing from that point. It would not work, it might just seem like an excuse to show crazy violent images, if it wasn’t for the fact that we care about the band members and learn to care for Amber (Imogen Poots), the girl we find in tears after the murder of her friend who is also trapped in the green room along with the band. We see our group steal gas from cars like they have been doing it for so long, they make fun of each other lovingly as well as joke about others like the kid with the mohawk that gives them two gigs. There is a real youthful tone that comes from these characters. While having the attitude of angry kids in a punk band, they also act like people who really care about life and each other. Sam while on the way to steal gas so they can reach their next destination is taking pictures and later they give each other compliments for good ideas like singing the Dead Kennedy’s song “Nazi Punks F*** Off” as their opening song as a joke, it also works as just a completely punk move. The script that Saulnier wrote here is pretty great, fantastic as times, but the actors really make these guys feel so real and alive. Acting legend Patrick Stewart plays Darcy, the leader of the terrifying group. He gives the least impressive performance in the film, which not to say it is bad in any sense of the word, but everyone else is so good. Macon Blair, Saulnier’s lead in Blue Ruin is back here as Gabe, a nervous and yet loyal patron to Darcy. He gives one of the film’s best performances and hopefully has a plentiful career ahead of him. You really get the man is a wreck being associated with these psychopaths, but may have no other place to go and his last few scenes are a triumph for his character and surprisingly heartbreaking. You can tell all of that from his face.
The film pulls off something that seems near impossible to do, it has cinematography that gives off the sense that it is very dark in places, but the lighting is so that you can still see enough to know what is happening. There is a great amount of attention to detail to the whole project, you know there is a map somewhere that lays out the whole building, planning every door, window and vent. There is most likely a timeline laying out how dark it should be getting from scene to scene. The fact that the sun is going down never brings attention to itself, you may not even notice it the first viewing. The whole film is really a triumph on all fronts, acting wise, directing wise and in all the production.
SPOILERS! IF YOU SAW THE FILM, KEEP READING! IF NOT, STOP AND SEE THE FILM!
I spoke about all the violence in this film. It all works as a look at how real life people would try and handle having horrifically violent things happen to them. Strangely enough all the terrible things that are done to our main characters also work as metaphors for a band being on tour. Every band member has a role in the band that if any of it will work in the long run is going to require some sacrifice. The first big violent moment catches us completely off guard. Pat is handing off the gun behind the door to Darcy. He is attacked and the other band members do everything to pull him back in. The editing is brilliant here, we think when he is rescued that everything is okay. It is not. Pat has gotten his arm cut up so bad that his hand is almost fallen off. He is a guitarist in the band, he plays the bass if memory serves me right, but his hand is important to keep playing. For a normal night it would have to be pretty sore after a show. Later other characters are killed off in terrible ways, Tiger, who is the lead singer gets attacked by a dog that basically rips into his throat. Singing every single night, including rehearsal would put a strain on your throat. The drummer Reece gets stabbed in the back several times, because how sitting and playing the drums every night would not be very good on the back. It is all a metaphor for the struggles of touring. Strange that Saulnier felt the need to include this, but it also makes the film kind of even more amazing. Amber acts as a “sort of” fan of the band. Only being that their show and being around them all night until the morning when Pat tries to get personal with her, which he never had the ability to with his real friends the whole movie and she blows him off telling him to tell somebody who cares. After all they have been through and worked they put into the night, after thinking they finally reached someone their sole fan doesn’t really care anymore.