Directed By: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat
Tag line: "Now. Whatever you saw or did. Is no longer my concern. But let's be clear. It won't end well"
Trivia: The stance of the machete wielder in the poster references The Clash's "London Calling" album cover
From its brutality violent tale of survival to the unnerving performance delivered by Patrick Stewart, director Jeremy Saulnier’s 2015 movie Green Room has quite a bit going for it. Yet what impressed me the most was the almost organic way its story unfolded, revealing, in a very disturbing manner, just how suddenly and unexpectedly a life-or-death situation can creep up on you.
The Ain’t Rights, a punk rock band featuring the collective talents of bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), drummer Reece (Joe Cole) and lead singer Tiger (Callum Turner), is on tour, and having a miserable time. When a gig arranged by college radio host Tad (David W. Thompson) fizzles out, the band decides to end the tour and go home. However, Tad manages to talk them into playing one final venue: a Neo-Nazi Skinhead bar located in Portland, Oregon. In desperate need of cash, the band agrees, and after being greeted by Tad’s cousin Daniel (Mark Webber), who works at the bar, the Ain’t Rights hit the stage, and despite a rocky start, they soon win over the crowd.
The trouble begins moments after the band leaves the stage, when Pat goes back to the green room (where musicians relax before their performances) to retrieve Sam’s cell phone. What he finds, instead, is a murdered girl (Taylor Tunes) lying on the floor, and the victim’s friend Amber (Imogen Poots) asking him to call the police. Because he’s seen too much, Gabe (Macon Blair) ushers Pat and the other members of the band back into the Green Room and has the club’s bouncer, Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), hold them there at gunpoint.
A few minutes later, the head honcho of the skinheads (and the club’s owner), Darcy Banker (Stewart), shows up, and decides it would be best to silence the Ain’t Rights permanently. This leads to a stand-off between the band (who refuse to unlock the green room door until the police arrive) and Darcy’s skinheads (who have already ensured that the law won’t be getting involved), and before it’s over, a number of people will be dead.
Patrick Stewart delivers a stellar performance as the leader whose direct, almost clinical approach to murder will send a chill up your spine. He is, at all times, cold and calculated, and when he’s talking with Pat through a closed door, trying to convince him and his friends to end this impasse, we can't shake the feeling he’s done this sort of thing before. In addition, the film boasts quite a bit of violence, some of which will shock you because the carnage is so sudden; one particular scene, which occurred soon after Darcy took over the negotiations, featured two brutally violent moments, and a few later sequences involving trained attack dogs will have you squirming in your seat.
What truly shook me, though, was how arbitrary the whole situation seemed, and how quickly the standoff between the band and Darcy’s skinheads escalated. The “wrong place at the wrong time” scenario has played out in hundreds of movies over the years (Hitchcock was a master at it), but never have I experienced a film like Green Room, where we have absolutely no advanced warning of what’s to come. All at once, four people who simply wanted to play a little music are in a fight for their lives, and nothing they say or do is going to change that.
Many things occur over the course of Green Room that will pull you deeper into its story, but it’s the staggering unpredictability of it all that I won’t soon forget.