Movie Review: ‘Green Room’

green-room-2015-cartel3 stars

R | 1h 35min

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Writer: Jeremy Saulnier

Stars: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat

by Jason Koenigsberg

Patrick Stewart is one of the most talented actors of his generation and we are blessed to have him every time he graces the screen. From Captain Picard in Star Trek to Professor X in X-Men and everything in between he has proven himself a force to be reckoned with in film, television and stage with regal elegance. Audiences have never seen him in a role quite like the villainous skinhead Darcy in Green Room. Patrick Stewart sheds his classy demeanor to play a low life trying to kill some young punk rockers to cover up some seedy activity involving drugs and murder.

The film opens up with a shot of Anton Yelchin sleeping. When he wakes up he finds that he is in a van in a cornfield and his friends/bandmates are all passed out drunk. They irresponsibly let the battery die and the van is empty on gas. This opening shot enforces that the events that are about to unfold in this film will be a rude awakening to the main character and his low rent, punk rock friends.

They get a gig performing at an isolated, shady venue that is filled with rednecks. One of the band members stumbles into a room and witnesses something he was not supposed to, and as a result the band is held against their will in a room while the white supremacists led by Patrick Stewart decide how they can dispose of them. That is the plot in a nutshell and what follows are some truly harrowing events that even the ones lucky enough to survive will not escape without some serious physical and emotional damage.

One of the aspects that stood out right away in Green Room is the cinematography. Every shot there is a noticeable amount of green. Sometimes it is blatant with birds eye view shots of forests in the Pacific Northwest, other times it is the lighting that always utilizes a greenish hue. Some shots just contain an image on screen that is green like an emerald dangling from the rear view mirror in the van. This green motif could be used to symbolize nature and how the characters are going to have to fight against the evils of human nature to survive, but it most likely represents the sickness that inhabits some humans. 

Green Room is an intense story of survival, reminiscent of Deliverance (1972), or more recently The Revenant (2014). Unlike those films, it embodies similar themes and gruesome images but in a claustrophobic setting. Instead of these characters fighting to survive against the forces of nature, they have to use their ingenuity to survive against the brutal, dark side of human nature. 

One cannot discuss Green Room without mentioning the violence and it is extremely graphic. However, not once does this movie ever glorify the violence it portrays. In fact, the way that the violence is depicted in this film is done effectively and responsibly. It is refreshing that a movie shows the ramifications of violence. The gore reminded me of the way David Cronenberg depicts violence and showing how horrific it is by being realistic as he has in many of his films, most notably A History of Violence (2005). Green Room has a very matter of fact quality to its action that resonates as being a mature film for mature moviegoers, not for teenagers looking to find the next big horror franchise. 

One demerit for Green Room is the way the film developed its characters. The cast is talented and they are given time to develop during the first act before all hell breaks loose, but whether it was the dialogue or the direction or the actors themselves not having enough chemistry together, the audience never really cares enough about any of these characters. Once terrible things befall them, the only reason there is an impact is because the violence is so brutal and not because we are emotionally invested in this down on their luck band. In fact, the graphic violence helps to make the audience care about these characters because without it, there might have been no emotional response. 

Also, this may have been intentional since early on we see these characters doing some unsavory acts themselves, nothing as awful as murder, but they do siphon gas from a random car. By not having any redeeming qualities, the events in the movie had to unfold the way they did, otherwise the audience would not care at all what happens to these characters. Also I think the lack of any characters being true heroes helps the film. What they do at the beginning ties into the final scenes at the end because those that survive might have trouble convincing the authorities of everything that happened. 

Ultimately, Green Room is an intense story of survival for a band of punk rockers pitted against a band of Neo Nazis. Patrick Stewart gives a stand out performance as an unlikely leader of a group of skinheads. Its flaws actually turn out to enhance the film and make its weaknesses not stand out as much as they should have. 

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