Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room is a master work of tension and genre filmmaking, every frame matters, every beat is earned, every devilish laugh lands as you squirm from the edge to the back of your seat as the mayhem unfolds.
A punk band, The Ain’t Rights, is trying to scrape together enough cash to make the trip home without siphoning gas, so they take a desperation gig at a venue that serves some neo-Nazi’s before heading home. When they come across an incident in the titular green room after their show, well, let’s just say things get ugly in a hurry.
Getting into the ins and outs of what unfolds would ruin the fun of the film, and at it’s heart Green Room is supposed to fun. Brutal, bloody and deranged fun. The violence that pops up in this film is brutal, it is brief when it pops up, but will gross you out nonetheless. I was squirming throughout, as Saulnier just keeps the tension running from nearly start to finish. I haven’t been this tense in a film in ages.
What makes Green Room even more impressive of a feat for Saulnier is that he is creating all of this tension basically with sheer filmmaking technique and a script that is just relentless in piling one thing after another on these kids. What I am saying is we don’t care about the stakes because we are so in love with the characters, but because everything Saulnier brings to the table is working 100%. That might seem like a slight on the characters, the actors, or their character development in Saulnier’s script, but, again, Saulnier knows what he is doing. We know who we are rooting for in this fight, and The Ain’t Rights are a likable group of actors, but their mostly anonymous personas allows the viewer to put themselves in their shoes. It is a terrifying prospect to imagine what you would do in this situation, but I think that freedom for the viewer really helps Saulnier ratchet up the tension even further. You’d think that this could be dangerous if the characters do something you wouldn’t do, the audience might scream come on, but Saulnier orchestrates the madness so well every turn works in the film no matter what path you think it should take.
The cast is populated with plenty of friendly faces from the Star Trek universe and beyond, and while it might have sounded like I was short shrifting these guys above, everyone is doing fine work in the film. The whole cast sells the terror of the situation, everyone gets what Saulnier is going for and understands that this is a fun movie as much as it is a terrifying one and they sell the laughs in the film which are more frequent than one would imagine. Anton Yelchin is the leader of the band, and his WTF approach to the situation works wonderfully. Macon Blair is great in another Saulnier film, as he plays a conflicted party caught more in the middle than he probably should be. Patrick Stewart is an excellent villain, both menacing and hilarious, and he never even has to raise his voice. Joe Cole, Callum Turner and Alia Shawkat round out The Ain’t Rights and they all put up a great fight. Though, Imogen Poots is the real star of this show, as she is about as badass as they come in this movie.
Green Room is genre filmmaking at its finest. Jeremy Saulnier is one of our best young directors and I can not wait to see what he does next. He keeps getting better with each film and has a handle on his craft that is nearly unrivaled for this green a filmmaker. Brutal and intense, Green Room isn’t for everyone, but if you are willing to take the ride you are in for one of the best films you will see all year.