9.5 out of 10
Patrick Stewart as Darcy
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Green Room Review:
Jeremy Saulnier’s first film, Murder Party, is a bit of nasty comedic fun. Blue Ruin is more somber, with a bravura performance by Macon Blair as the Least Likely To Succeed seeker of vengeance. In both films, Saulnier exhibits remarkable range, restraint, and confidence. He’s also a terrific writer, building tension without overplaying his hand. Add to that a keen visual stylist, and Jeremy Saulnier should be beating eager studios off with sticks. But Saulnier is carefully building his career, and I admire that he’s not taking every project offered, instead exploring his own voice and talent.
Green Room may be his best work yet. With Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier has created such a taut, visceral, brutal thriller that audiences may be taken aback at just how far the film is willing to go. Unflinchingly intense, Green Room doesn’t pull any punches, and doesn’t waste time throwing them, either – Green Room does more in its 95 minutes than many bloated Hollywood spectacles ever achieve. Audiences experiencing this one are genuinely in danger of falling off the edge of their seats.
The sparse settings of Green Room add to the tension – much of the film is in one location, as punk band the Ain’t Rights find themselves in a bad place when after a gig in a remote club, singer Pat (Anton Yelchin) witnesses a murder of a young girl. The neo-Nazis who own the establishment, led by Darcy (a chillingly-villainous Patrick Stewart), must make sure that none of the band escape to report back to the authorities. Tiger (Callum Turner), Reece (Joe Cole), and Sam (Alia Shawkat) try to think, outwit, and fight their way out of their situation, while Amber (Imogen Poots), friend to the murdered girl, has no reservations about doing what needs to be done to get out. Meanwhile, club owner David (Macon Blair), must make a decision – he is personally affected by what is happening, and he doesn’t know which side to take a stand with.
Saulnier and cinematographer Sean Porter stay close to everyone, making an already tense situation even more personal and unflinching. Green Room doesn’t take long to throw us all into the mix – we are thick in the mess in no time, and no one is spared any relief, especially the audience. Saulnier is clearly inspired by films like Assault on Precinct 13, but he also puts his own stamp on the material, and is willing to do the unexpected to propel the story forward in surprising ways. Green Room has no issues with sparing the gore, and there are several stomach-churning moments that are used so effectively that much of the audience will be looking at these grisly proceedings through their fingers. Imogen Poots gets many of those moments herself – she’s hellfire and brimstone in this movie. She’s terrific, funny, and fierce.
No one escapes unscathed in Green Room, and it’s remarkably entertaining for all the intensity, stopping when it must to move the plot forward, and Green Room has a wicked sense of humor that doesn’t hold back with the brutality even while we laugh. We like the band, and sympathize with their plight, but when things go bad for them, they go very bad indeed. Anton Yelchin turns in an earnest, focused performance, hoping for the best even as things go south. Turner, Cole, and Shawkat all hold their own and make the apprehension and danger palpable. Blair, as the conflicted neo-Nazi, also adds sympathy to what should on paper be an entirely unredeemable character. But I think the performance that everyone will be talking about is Patrick Stewart’s, playing a character that is unlike anything he’s ever attempted before. Darcy is cold, calculating, and relentless, and Stewart gives him a terrifying banality and efficiency that makes him a truly formidable foe for the Ain’t Rights. This is one of his best roles, and Stewart dives in with aplomb and without any hesitation.
Green Room doesn’t spare the audience – not everyone is going to be okay. Jeremy Saulnier orchestrates everything perfectly, spinning many plates but doing so with confidence and precision. He knows exactly where he wants to go, and exactly how to take us there. There are very few cinematic rides that feel as effortless as Green Room does, and I hope Saulnier follows his own voice down the paths less traveled, making genre films that are as wildly entertaining, innovative, and exciting as Green Room. Saulnier is showing Hollywood that you don’t need huge explosions or effects to make a vital, heightened thriller. All you need is well-written characters, a plot that defies prediction, and a tenacity and an eagerness to tell your story. Saulnier has crafted a top-notch entertainment with Green Room, and he is an exceptional talent to whom attention must be paid. I can’t wait to see what he does next. See Green Room immediately.