Movie Review: Green Room

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A band struggles to survive after accidentally witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi bar.

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Jeremy Saulnier, 2016

Struggling punk rock band The Ain’t Rights travel are on tour, travelling across America in their bomb of a van and playing gigs wherever they can get them. Lead singer Tiger (Callum Turner), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), drummer Reece (Joe Cole) and bass player Pat (Anton Yelchin) are devastated when a gig falls through, leaving them stranded and pennyless; desperate, they take another gig without learning the details. They end up in a neo-Nazi bar full of skinheads, where they purposefully antagonise the patronage. They head back to the green room after the show, where Pat accidentally stumbles across the aftermath of a murder. The Ain’t Rights are trapped in the room by the bar security until the sinister bar owner Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart) arrives to sort out the situation. Realising the severity of their plight, the band team up with neo-Nazi and fellow witness Amber (Imogen Poots) in an increasingly bloody attempt to escape.

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Green Room is a really, really freaking good modern thriller. I’m so disappointed that I missed this at the cinema during its unfairly short run. Jeremy Saulnier has crafted an uniquely atmospheric film that weaves together characterisation, pacing, exposition, and mounting tension seemlessly without sacrificing a grounding realism despite the story’s increasing violence. Its sensibilities are Instagram-esque, the handheld-style camerawork alternating between floaty and soft to shaky, twitching desperation. The film starts so gentle that one could be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally started watching the wrong movie, following its quirky little band as they chase their dreams and siphon gas just to keep going, laughing around campfires and chatting about their “desert island bands”. This particular joke threads through the movie, keeping us connected to the characters when things get out of control. The tension builds brilliantly – there’s the claustrophobic feel of the green room itself, contrasted with the constant fear as soon as anyone steps outside into the unknown. The movie has a few moments of really brutal violence, but they’re used surprisingly sparingly so that it’s a proper shock whenever they occur. It’s anchored by good performances, too.

I miss Anton Yelchin terribly. He really got a chance to show off his skills in Green Room, grinding down that quirky likeability into a quiet strength that sustains him throughout the film. He maintains good chemistry with Imogen Poots (the two co-starred in Fright Night), but the real strength here is the easy, natural chemistry established between the band early in the film. Distinct personalities are established early, with natural banter and a shared dream lending the group a sense of genuine connection. It makes the descent into violence and death so much more shocking when you’ve been given reasons to really care for the characters. Also good is Patrick Stewart, who pours all of his classical training into making Darcy menacingly soft-spoken, brutally calm as he doles out death and pain. Unfortunately, the fact that their tormentors are neo-Nazis doesn’t factor into the plot as much as it could; it seems like a convenient excuse for their captors to be Really Really Evil rather than an issue that the film is interested in exploring. Overall, though, this is a terrifically made film that’s more than worth hunting down.

Green Room on IMDb

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