"We're not keeping you here, you're just staying."
Following a particularly rough gig, an “off the gird” punk band find themselves fighting for survival against a group of Neo-Nazi’s after they witness something backstage they shouldn’t have.
In the third film in his self-proclaimed “inept protagonist” trilogy writer/director Jeremy Saulnier has made possibly his best film yet. Following on from his brilliantly taut and oddly funny revenge drama “Blue Ruin” a few year back, Saulnier has turned it up to 11 with his latest creating a genre bending thriller that not only pummels it’s audience into submission but firmly secures Saulnier’s place as one of the best among the new crop of American filmmakers working today.
Right off the bat the film manages to convey who it’s protagonists are, their relationship to each other and what they’re all about without ever having to telegraph any of this information to the audience. The devil is in the details and here they're used sparingly and seamlessly; the syphoning of gas, the music that is being played and the clever dialogue that easily flows and bounces between characters, Saulnier has managed to infuse the world of his film with such authenticity and a sense of dread and urgency that it’s narrative creeps into the pit of your stomach and doesn’t leave till the credits roll.
Once the film gets going it plays very much like older 70s thrillers like Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” or Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs”, a relatively simple narrative devise of a small group of people trapped inside a room while an amassed force outside tires to get in. The key to any of these narratives however are the characters, and much like the aforementioned 70s classics “Green Room” nails it. Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat in particular stand out as key band members fighting for survival and they manage to blend moments of calm level-headedness with the frantic chaos that comes with the fray in a believable manner that not only adds to the genuine horror of the situation but allows the audiences empathy and connection with them to grow as the film progresses.
The real genius in the films casting is on the other side of the door however, where Patrick Stewart and Macon Blair (star of Saulnier’s previous films) lead the group of Neo-Nazi’s in a cold and calculated fashion. The manner in which Saulnier has chosen to present his villains is unlike anything seen in recent genres films, a calm and collected rationality that is brilliantly conveyed by Stewart's grandfatherly demeanour, here used against type to help subvert our expectations of what a Neo-Nazi villain should be . Blair also, for those who have seen “Blue Ruin”, delivers a unique performance that’s a total 180 from his previous work, one that hints at something deeper within his characters and somehow manages to make the audience engage and actually care, however slightly, about what these skinheads are doing here in the woods.
For a film that could easily be presented frenetically, “Green Room” is surprisingly still. Cinematographer Sean Porter spends most of the film with his camera locked off or using slow, methodical pans, only reverting to handheld when the action calls for it. The result is a calmness in the film that mirrors the demeanour of the villains and only helps to increase the sense of anxiety that's building within the audience.
“Green Room” is a film that has been meticulously put together with love and attention paid to even the smallest of details, an effort that clearly shows on screen. The tension builds with a swift pace, never lingering on moments or scenes longer than in necessary, with characters and performances that have you caring about them and genuinely invested in the narrative. “Green Room” is easily one of the best acted, best constructed and most entertaining thrillers in years and if you can stomach the violence one of the better films you’re likely to see this year.
8.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Chris Swan.