Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Macon Blair, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Eric Edelstein
Words: N. Scatcherd
Following the quietly brilliant ‘revenge thriller’ Blue Ruin from 2013, director Jeremy Saulnier returns with another colour-coded tale of escalating violence. Green Room has a different focus from his previous film, a more visceral and intense experience, eliciting gasps and squirming in all the right places.
The set-up has a direct, B-movie simplicity: young punk band ‘The Ain’t Rights’ play a gig at a kind of skinhead commune for petrol money; one of them witnesses the aftermath of a murder; they become trapped in the titular green room with a baying mob of skinheads on the other side of the door. Saulnier is understated but confident when it comes to visual flourishes, using grimy cinematography (most of the film feels appropriately bathed in various sickly shades of its title colour), giving an atmosphere made all the more gripping by the naturalistic performances. You are placed right alongside the band (Yelchin, Shawkat, Cole and Turner, all on standout form), and each decision they make feels fraught with tension as they react to their situation with varying degrees of panic and terror. Patrick Stewart’s turn as skinhead patriarch Darcy is delivered with an unnerving methodical calm, but in fact it’s Macon Blair as a vaguely uneasy, self-conscious underling who gives perhaps the film’s best, most nuanced performance.
The bursts of violence are genuinely shocking, feeling queasily real and intense; limbs are hacked, dogs chew throats, bellies are split open, and it’s all shot with the kind of impact that real-world violence has, and films all too often sensationalise or eschew entirely. Most of the bloodletting is offhand, clumsy and almost incidental, and as the band’s situation becomes more and more dire, there’s a legitimate sense of danger and unpredictability. The film’s final twenty minutes start to stretch credulity a little – no spoilers – but overall, Green Room is the kind of breathless white-knuckle thriller that has both brains and guts (quite literally).