Green Room Review
Those who saw Jeremy Saulnier’s breakout last film, Blue Ruin (2013), will have witnessed an exhilarating tale about a character's vengeful, bloody journey, and a superior drama that has as much quiet tension as it does relentless action. Saulnier’s latest film is equally filled with taut moments and horrifying incidents, but with the action this time primarily taking place in one location. Yet what Green Room (2015) lacks in multiple settings, it more than makes up for with expert pacing, plot twists, and suspense, in an effective thriller that offers a fresh angle on the usual high concept genre film.
Almost feeling as if it is set within the same grimy walls of the club featured at the start of Blue Ruin, this hell hole is at first miles away for young punk rock band ‘The Ain’t Rights’. With a slow, unassuming start, Saulnier gradually eases us into his story, taking the time to introduce us to his characters who are coming to the end of a failed tour. Siphoning gas to get from gig to gig, they are the very definition of the term ‘struggling musicians’, so it’s no surprise that when someone offers them an impromptu gig, they gladly take it. Little do they know that what awaits them is a room full of neo-Nazis, a ruthless owner (Patrick Stewart), and a bloody act that leaves them locked in a room and fighting for their lives.
It is when they witness this act that Green Room suddenly becomes a relentless thrill ride until the end, the air constantly thick with tension as Saulnier barely gives his characters, or us, a moments rest. Saulnier’s script twists and turns, putting interesting new spins on the usual thriller clichés and constantly keeping you on your toes as you watch. Just when you think you’ve figured out where it’s heading or how the group might survive, Saulnier takes a completely unexpected direction, resulting in a genuinely effective drama that packs more than a few gut-punching moments, especially when the characters we’ve grown to know are subjected to unspeakable horrors.
The impact we feel in these terrifying moments is also down to the stunning performances from the young leads, each of them adding genuine sensitivity to their roles which makes their characters, and the story, that much more realistic. Their convincing portrayals also mean that their transgressions from potential survivors, to fierce warriors, is that much more believable, especially for the more passive characters of the band played by Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat, as well as Imogen Poots as a bystander who becomes trapped in the green room with them.
The one location setting could have been in danger of becoming repetitive or trite, but Saulnier constantly throws in fresh ideas in a truly impressive thriller that barely stops to breathe. Brilliant performances, in particular from the young cast members, as well as a slow build-up, mean that the film is that much more powerful, and not least because of a liberal use of gore and other shocking moments. With Blue Ruin and now Green Room under his belt, it certainly will be interesting to see where this writer-director heads next. Hopefully somewhere equally as thrilling.