I haven’t seen a movie that so effectively creates an air of sleazy tension as Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. The premise is uncomplicated: a cash-strapped punk rock band takes a no-more-dodgy-than-usual gig somewhere in Oregon. The gig goes well despite the heavy presence of unsavoury Neo-Nazi types, and they prepare to head off when they stumble on a crime scene and are trapped backstage by the venue’s proprietors…that’s when the shit really starts hitting the fan. The film does a great job of keeping a lid on the simmering uneasiness until this point – and then it rips the lid off and ramps up the white knuckle factor right through to the end of the film.
Patrick Stewart’s presence in the movie is wonderfully schizophrenic: his calming voice is one of reason and patience, yet he is the instigator of so much of the chaos we bare witness to as the unfortunate bands members’ night gets progressively worse. The late Anton Yelchin gives a solid performance as Pat, the band’s guitarist. Soft-spoken and delicate, he carries the emotional weight of the film. Green Room is punctuated with moments of dead-pan gallows humour, providing the the viewer with some brief morsels of respite. It works because of the well gelled cast (for instance there’s some good on-screen chemistry between Yelchin and Imogen Poots in the third act of the film), and because its delivery is every bit as grim as the rest of the film.
The grungy feel of Green Room is achieved through its wonderful use of lighting, colour palette, and claustrophobic set design. Every piece of the set and every prop used looks grimy and right at home in the film’s setting; and the lighting and photography give it an uneasy, sickly feeling. The use of graphic violence seemed at the time to border on gratuitous, but upon reflection and in comparison with many war films (e.g. Saving Private Ryan) it’s actually used more sparingly – it’s just delivered in such a visceral way that it’s much more impacting.
Green Room is certainly not for the faint hearted film-goer. It’s brutal, tense, and down-right strange. It takes no prisoners and is more than happy to reach out of the screen and punch you in the face. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film enter the halls of cult classic status.
Green Room has one more screening left at the NZIFF on Wednesday July 22nd – be sure to get in quick!