Independent films often have a side story of their creation equally as compelling as the story within the film itself. It takes insurmountable odds to make a feature film. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s breakout feature, Blue Ruin, intrigued me just from the story of how much work (and how many maxed out credit cards) it took to get it off the ground.
But upon Ruin’s beginning, none of that story compared to how thrilling and well-executed the movie actually was. With all that said, I could not wait for whatever Saulnier decided to do next.Enter Green Room. There are numerous similarities–primarily in style–to these two features, but they are unique enough that they can be enjoyed separately.
A punk rock band that is barely making ends meet gets a last-minute, $350 gig, at a Neo-Nazi bar in the backwoods of Oregon. When they witness an act of violence backstage that they weren’t meant to see, let’s just say things go foul from there.
Again, we are put into a thrilling situation and then given a white-knuckle ride for the remaining duration. This one is essentially punk-rocker-good-guys on the inside vs. skinhead-bad-guys on the outside, and as soon as the pacing begins, it’s a tense experience until the very last shot.
One of Saulnier’s intriguing signatures is his deliberate use of the color in the movie title. Green Room features some element of green hue in nearly every shot, ranging from the harsh neon lights in the punk club to the awe-inspiring greenery of the rural Oregon scenery. As someone who loves viewing a director’s filmography, it excites me to think what color he might employ next in his through-line.
Anton Yelchin leads the cast with Imogen Poots and various other semi-familiar faces (Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner and Joe Cole) who round up the remaining punk rockers. On the opposition, Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the Nazis, Darcy Banker, and while it’s not as terrifying as similar villains, Stewart slips into the role extremely well and creates a compelling and antagonizing force. Macon Blair, Saulnier’s Blue Ruin lead, plays Gabe, a conflicted Nazi, in this film and while his performance is another solid one where he nails all of those subtle beats at just the right moments, the pace at which his character develops leaves us feeling a bit short-changed. Further time spent with Gabe could have possibly made this his most creepy and memorable film yet. That being said, Green Room is a film where the character development and drama plays second fiddle to the intense visceral suspense that is drawn out in nearly every scene.
High tension thrillers are extremely hard to pull off, but have the potential to be some of cinema’s best when they do. Saulnier has now notched two under his belt and shows a clear upward trajectory. Call me a fan of both this movie and its director, and I look forward to the next thrill ride in this filmography.
Green Room is Rated R for strong brutal graphic violence, gory images, language and some drug content. In theaters in LA/NY Friday, April 15th, with a national rollout April 29th.