Green Room is one of those films that is sure to sneak up on you, in terms of just how invested you find yourself in the characters and their story when the bodies start hitting the floor. In its own way, it is a very human story of horror and survival, driven by choices often made by people in panic mode, and the panic feels earned.
Though it is brutal and gory in its violence, that brutality and gore never feels gratuitous, and that says something about the filmmaker, Jeremy Saulnier, about his talent and vision for this story. It’s as good a thriller as audiences have seen all year thus far, and quite likely will be among the best in the genre by year’s end.
What’s it about?
A down-on-their-luck punk band named “The Ain’t Rights” – bass guitarist Pat (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek Into Darkness), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat, “Arrested Development”), drummer Reece (Joe Cole, The Secret in their Eyes), and vocalist Tiger (Callum Turner, Victor Frankenstein) – have hit the skids, literally. Low on cash, with nothing but lousy gigs in recent memory, they take a booking at a “skinhead” bar out in the middle of the woodlands near Portland, Oregon, agreeing that it will be their last before heading home.
But the chances that it will be their last gig ever increase dramatically when they get caught up in some bloody business backstage in the green room. A standoff ensues when the band and locks themselves in to wait for help, while the bar owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and his henchmen outside lay siege to the room while preparing to make the whole mess, along with the band, disappear.
Stewart, talent cast deliver a taut thriller
While just about everyone in the Green Room ensemble delivers fine acting work, any discussion of the acting in the film must begin with Patrick Stewart. Yes, his character her is about as different as possible from his famed TV role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but Stewart bring that same undeniable presence, the same bearing to his cold, efficient turn as Darcy. Stewart makes the ruthlessly pragmatic Darcy a terrifying antagonist without a wasted word or gesture, which makes the role all the more memorable.
Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots (who starred alongside Yelchin and Colin Farrell in the 2011 remake of Fright Night), and Macon Blair, who starred in director Jeremy Saulnier’s last film, 2013’s critically acclaimed Blue Ruin, all offer up fine, committed performances along with Stewart’s in Green Room. In fact, the film may turn out to be in the years to come one of those films people look back on and marvel at the collection of talent on screen.
Fine writing and direction … to a point
Jeremy Saulnier’s writing in Green Room never fails to sound authentic to the characters and their situation. His staging of the siege that dominates the film’s second act is also worthy of praise, as the tension pervading those scenes makes for truly compelling cinema.
That said, Green Room does lose some steam in the film’s third act. It’s as though Saulnier wrote himself into a corner and struggled to find a way out that was as compelling as the way in. Not to say that the film’s climax is a letdown; rather, it just doesn’t live up to the promise in the film’s setup.
Green Room is absolutely worth seeing, especially if you’re a fan of thrillers. It’s a smart, down-and-dirty experience, one not for the faint of heart or stomach thanks to the gore brought to life by some rather convincing make-up effects.
Rest assured, however, that Green Room is not a genre film that relies on blood and violence to get the job done. It’s the talent on screen, behind the camera, and in the script that keep you engaged in Green Room, and may have you wanting to see it again.
Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner and Patrick Stewart. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
Running Time: 94 minutes
Rated R for strong brutal graphic violence, gory images, language and some drug content.