Green Room: NZIFF Film Review
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair, Alia Shawkat
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Rendered more poignant due to the untimely passing of star Anton Yelchin, Green Room is likely to benefit from a wave of interest.
But instead of mawkish curiosity, what you should get from this tautly claustrophobic thriller is a sense of purposeful execution from Blue Ruin director Saulnier.
Yelchin is Pat, one of the members of a punk band The Ain’t Rights; currently on tour through the less salubrious parts of the Pacific Northwest, the gang lose out on a gig from a friend. However, when they get booked into a venue in the woods, desperate for cash to fuel their trip home, they take it.
Upon arrival, the group finds their audience are a bunch of neo-Nazi thugs. Bizarrely though, their set goes well and about to head off, the Ain’t Rights stumble into a murder scene and everything flips.
With the thugs desperate to ensure the group doesn’t escape, and the group desperate to survive, a terrifying game of cat and mouse survival begins…
Saulnier’s follow up to Blue Ruin is nothing short of thrilling and masterfully executed.
Making great fist of the small location and the choking nature of the black-walled club and its backrooms, as well as an atmosphere of unease, Green Room knows what it wants to do and does it well.
Choking and suffocating every drop of tension from the dread proceedings, and also never veering into exploitative sleazy territory, the film’s MO is one of a supreme pressure cooker. There’s little characterisation on show other than a brief conversation about which artists the band would choose for their Desert Island Discs, but it matters not one jot.
Within the confines of the club, and the calm measured and menacing performances of Patrick Stewart as the club owner and Macon Blair as the man on duty, the film’s more a quiet piece with moments of shocks and jolts to shake you asunder.
Yelchin’s ease of presence makes him immediately a hero you back, and Poots’ spiky potential victim has an edge that doesn’t ever thaw (her final line to her Fright Night co-actor is typical of the film) as the scenario plays out.
Stewart’s calm is disarming and those writing the piece are smart enough to know the menace comes from the brooding and clinical delivery of the club owner’s methods of thinking; equally, the fact none of the bad guys are caricatures but are readily recognisable is a smart move, indicative of
Saulnier’s desire to set this in a sickening world that we all potentially live in, with an underbelly simply waiting for provocation.
Saulnier’s direction is smart, giving the whole thing an oppressive edge that’s gloomily lit and a thriller that’s as chilling as it is engaging. By never fully giving a complete picture of life outside the green room where the group’s initially trapped, Saulnier deals out a palpable atmosphere of sickening dread, which threatens to explode asunder, but thankfully never does.
All in all, Green Room is a pulse-pounding thrill ride that eschews what you’d expect of it; cleanly executed and subtly underplayed in parts, it’s nothing short of a compelling film that deals masterfully in atmosphere and smartly in measured drama.