Following hot on the heels of the hugely successful revenge thriller Blue Ruin comes Jeremy Saulnier’s third feature, the similarly downcast Green Room.
After a wave of hype from Cannes and Toronto screenings, Green Room lands here as one of the hot picks for the festival and it is not difficult to see why. The presence of the legendary Patrick Stewart, who plays Darcy, the proprietor of the nazi-skinhead punk club where the film’s gig-turned-siege takes place, is, of course, the most prominent reason for said hype. Despite the unlikely description, Stewart’s character is a sinisterly collected and pragmatic character, which Stewart does well not to over-sell; this gives the rest of the film room to breathe, despite his potentially overawing presence.
Green Room follows young D.I.Y punk band “Ain’t Rights” as they try and survive on the road, with little money and resources, performing the art they love. The first act sets a warm tone through the luscious landscape and band’s camaraderie. Saulnier, however, soon creates the same tense mood and atmosphere as his previous work, shooting entirely in the exceedingly scenic Portland, Oregon countryside.
Saulnier has said in interviews promoting Green Room that he comes from a punk music background, hailing from the legendary Washington D.C scene (as does the band of the film) and it is highly refreshing to see punk music presented in a genuinely positive light – where so often it can become a negative stereotype. As someone who has performed and toured in punk bands myself, it was particularly heartening to see a film realistically made within this world.
The film, of course, shows the other side of the coin too, in the violent racist skinhead types who act like gangsters; but thankfully they aren’t as much of a problem in reality anymore. However, even they are shown as a brotherhood who look out for each other – despite their hateful views – making them more than mere one-dimensional bad guys.
After the band see a horrific crime in the titular green room, things “turn south”, as Darcy proclaims and the band are held hostage within the scene of the crime. The two groups have their relationships tested, as the tension and stakes ratchet increasingly upwards. Darcy and his group have the upper hand, a fact that becomes brutally clear once things begin to boil over, while the central band try to work a way out of the place together.
What follows is a violent yet thrilling revenge plot, as the band attempt to turn the tables on their captors. There are plenty of fun set-pieces, using some inventive props unique to the DIY punk venue setting, which is consistent with the dark humour that rumbles throughout the film; much like the incessant music and feedback that rings around the background throughout.
Green Room sees some great performances from a mostly young cast, including Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) in the band, with Imogen Poots as the mysterious, betrayed friend of the skinhead gang. On top of this, the sense of dread is impressive, particularly when the majority of the film takes place in the one room. The film is complete with some truly nasty moments, but equally a well-driven narrative, which keeps Green Room a fresh and impressive effort from this young director.