By Joshua Williams (Tucson, Arizona, United States)
Jeremy Saulnier strikes gold again with his third feature film Green Room. Green Room is a follow up the semi-successful Blue Ruin also done by Saulnier; the young auteur has clearly only just begun. With a clearly established visual style, Saulnier brings the modern punk rock scene to the big screen with Green Room. With the film centered around the band the Aint Rights, the band finds themselves falling short during a tour they are in the middle of and decide to call it quits. Before giving up on the tour, a promoter tells them that he can get them a gig in Portland. Desperate for cash, the Aint Rights decide to head down to Portland and play the show. Things turn south when the headlining band of the evening murders a young girl by stabbing her in the temple with a knife inside the green room. The Aint Rights are witnesses and are held hostage inside of this club. The owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) arrives in the middle of the all the commotion and recruits members of his Nazi brotherhood to murder the group of young adults.
The film thrives on its visual elegance and the violence that literally oozes off of the screen. With a color palette that only revolves around green, white, and orange, amateur cinematographer Sean Porter adds even more elegance to what is already a brilliant film. The violence is brutal, and I mean Evil Dead brutal. We witness a number of very gory and heart wrenching deaths throughout the film, from someone getting their throat ripped out by a dog, to someone getting their face blown off by a shotgun. According to Saulnier, this was his last chance to do something outlandish and other worldly, and boy did he seize this opportunity. The violence does not carry the film, but it certainly is an ultimate pay off to the tension that is built up throughout the entire first act. From the moment the band arrives at what you could barely call a club, the film is very offsetting and uncomfortable. From the shot reverse shot style of the band looking at people in the crowd, and people in the crowd staring back, Saulnier holds on these shots just long enough for you to sit back and go “Okay, you can cut now, I’m uncomfortable.” If anything is mastered in this film, it’s the use of tension, how the tension is built, how it’s taken to its peak, and how it is paid off for the audience.
The writing of the film is a little silly at certain points in the film but I believe that’s well supported due to the setting. Saulnier is clearly an intelligent film maker, so I don’t think he just got lazy with this film, he just is supporting the stereotypes of the setting. The acting is very well delivered by the actors and clearly very well directed by Saulnier. None of the actors are very big names besides obviously Patrick Stewart which gave Saulnier an advantage. None of the actors, or Saulnier for that matter, had to worry about ruining a reputation or tainting an image with a film as gruesome and gritty as this one. The acting is beyond truthful and the acting acts as just another crutch that carries the feeling Green Room emits.
The only flaw within Green Room is the character developments, or lack of. Throughout the film there is no growth among any of the characters. We open seeing how the band lives and go about their lives for the beginning of the first act, and we see how they handle this horrific situation that they are thrown into, but nobody learns anything from it, or gains some sort of life skill. Maybe how to shoot a gun and swing a machete but that’s beside the point. All of the characters remain very stagnant throughout the duration of the film, and right when we think we’re about to see some change or growth, they got shot, or stabbed. But this flaw is not notable enough to ruin the overall enjoyment of the film. It certainly is a thought that pops into your mind once the film has concluded, but during the film you can’t take your eyes off of the elegant cinematography, the brutal storytelling, and riveting acting, and of course people getting killed.
The film Green Room definitely defines Jeremy Saulnier as a director. This puts his name into the hands of studio executives ready for new auteur’s to shine on the big screen. With a very strong set up to the story, the clearly beautiful visual style, the use of discomfort and tension, and a very enjoyable pay off, the film is a very strong competitor among all of the indie releases coming out in 2016.
[the band is being interviewed]
Tad: Okay, I’m with The Ain’t Rights from Washington, DC. You guys are hard to find, why no social media presence?
Pat: Music is shared live. It’s time and aggression, you gotta be there. And then it’s over.
[as the band have packing up to finish after a gig]
Pat: Sorry, guys, you’ve gotta clear out. Follow me.
[Pat goes into the green room to get his cell phone and then sees a dead body and three people in the room]
Pat: Oh, shit.
Big Justin: I told you to follow me!
[Pat suddenly tries to make a run for it]
Big Justin: Hey, stop!
[Big Justin grabs holds of Pat’s hoodie and stops him]
Pat: Don’t! don’t, don’t, don’t!