Written by: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart
Have you ever nearly gotten yourself in a car accident but brake just in time? You have that rush of adrenaline and then take a moment to breathe and thank whatever being you worship for narrowly avoiding potential physical pain along with the headache from insurance companies raising premiums. Green Room pretty much summarizes what occurs if you slammed right into the car and it ended up exploding in the process with nonstop agony to the point where you wish you were dead. Yes, that’s a compliment.
Struggling indie hard rock band, Ain’t Rights get the opportunity for a gig in an alt-right bar in Portland where they hope to make some much-needed cash. After their limit-pushing performance, they accidentally witness a horrendous incident, which leaves them trapped at the venue needing to escape. Oh, and this venue happens to be a bar frequented by neo-Nazis unafraid to waste them for lack of cooperation.
On initial viewing, I could not comprehend the unabashed love this feature received from many. Its narrative does not exactly set the world on fire, as it basically becomes a story about this band trying to escape this nightmare scenario. No real nuance, but a second watch allowed me to see the light in the best of ways because this story excels in amping up the situation by continually adding gasoline to an all-consuming fire.
There lies an inherent sadness to this movie because of how easily this scenario could have been avoided and the film really demonstrates it. One moment of forgetfulness separates this band leaving with their money in hand continuing their tour but instead they find themselves in an inescapable circumstance. Setting up this horrifying situation shows Green Room at its very best. Trapped in a room with wild fanatics at the other side of the door ready to kill them makes any idea of hope completely futile, thus making this such a terrifying story to experience. Despite the rough exterior of these characters, we quickly sympathize with them, which should not be too difficult when they have to contend with neo-Nazis but they still have some likeability to them. The moment where their connection with the audience gets solidified has to be the opening number where they essentially tell their Nazi-filled audience to literally “fuck off” through their lyrics. A true moment of bravery and one they will need to escape with their lives.
Violence gets shed in very gruesome ways in this motion picture and it truly adds to the tension and stakes of the situation. A particular moment when a gun gets exchanged shows the viciousness of the players involved in a harrowing manner. In this particular instance, we do not see the violence on display but rather the aftermath, leaving it to the audience to envision the carnage that must have taken place in order to leave such a physically damaging impact. These directorial decisions truly aid to elevate the material of this movie from being more than just another thriller.
Heading into watching this film, I know Sir Patrick Stewart had a role, but the one he takes on in this feature absolutely stunned me. The man has made a career of playing wise and lovable characters and his turn as a leader of a violent neo-Nazi group certainly adds to the jarring feeling this film wishes to imbue on the audience. It makes his addition to this film all the richer because he has a soothing voice but brings the capability to inflict horrid levels of violence. Truly a different pace for Stewart as an actor, which made me glad he would take on a role like this when he could have gone his entire career without being this scary. Never a snarl or a direct threat, he utilizes his voice to be such an intimidating antagonist and it works so well as a contrast for the hard rock nature of everyone else within the story.
While being difficult to watch at times, Green Room thoroughly succeeds in creating a grimy and terrifying environment where it puts these characters in such a tough situation. It truly establishes the helplessness of the situation and demonstrates exactly what it would take for them to get out of there alive. This film also has never made dogs scarier for the threat they could pose when trained to kill. At a certain point, it had me rooting for the characters to potentially take one out just for their own survival. Such good filmmaking taking a very basic plot and makes it a thoroughly stressful and entertaining movie.