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Green Room: The Best Thriller in Years

May 5, 2016

Green Room Movie poster

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Green Room is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in years because director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin – watch it now!) has mastered the art of creating white-knuckle tension and killing people very violently.  His two films have dripped with authenticity, and the naturalness in the characters insane-decision-making push the films to stressful heights. The characters in Green Room are in over their heads and the result is glorious exploitation movie that is also very smart.

Green room band members

Nobody ever thinks they will be hunted by Neo-Nazis in the Oregon woods.

Green Room revolves around a hardcore band finishing their tour with a final show that will net them enough money to cover their cross-country drive back home. Their prior gig was cancelled, and they’ve found themselves siphoning gas and existing solely on ramen noodles. So, the $350 payday makes up for the fact that the venue is a Neo-Nazi compound outside of Portland, Oregon. The show goes off without a hitch, but when the bands guitarist Pat (Anton Yelchin) goes back to retrieve a cell phone he sees a dead girl on the floor. From there things go really wrong, and the band barricades themselves in the green room while the neo-Nazis lay siege. What follows is the most tense cinema I’ve seen in ages.

What I loved about the film is how random it all plays out. We never know what will happen next because everything is so clumsy, swift and unexpected. The band members and skinsheads are in new territory and their night of violence doesn’t go smoothly because they are all scared. I was surprised at how Saulnier was able to create unique and thoughtful characters on both sides of the green room. The characters could have been nameless blood geysers, but I was able to differentiate all of them and see them as authentic human beings. In a great interview with Screen Junkies, Saulnier broke down his character research.

The research was brutal. I was researching skinheads, the white-supremacist culture, dog fighting… I was definitely losing my stomach. But I’m huge on research. I inject just enough detail to make it authentic. The key was to do a ton of research, and to feel like I got a sense of the procedure and the structure and the vernacular… and then throw it all away, let the characters take the foreground. The challenge is not portraying Nazi skinheads as bad guys, it’s in portraying them as humans. The whole thing is about whatever we come in with, the perceived gangs or affiliations or ideologies or labels, the film strips that away eventually. So the goal is to immerse yourself in the world, make it feel authentic, until it all drifts away.

Green Room neo nazis

Everybody gets a solid character arch.

Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Macon Blair, Joe Cole, Callum Turner and Anton Yelchin are all solid and have a natural chemistry that makes their demises painful to watch. The most inspired casting decision goes to Patrick Stewart as the head of the neo-Nazi crew. His character Darcy is a master-manipulator who always seems calm despite him wanting you dead. It is understandable that he could rally youth to his cause, and I loved watching Stewart use his gravitas for evil. In an interview with Rolling Stone I love what Stewart had to say about the script.

For Stewart, the contrast was terrifying, so much so that he took a break from reading Saulnier’s script to lock the windows in his house. “The things that have always frightened me were not zombies or the walking dead or vampires,” Stewart explains. “It was people, real people, who were of a mindset and an attitude that no matter what the situation you find yourself in, you couldn’t reason with them. You couldn’t sit down with them, have a cup of coffee, and say ‘Let’s talk this over.'”

If you are looking for great thriller I totally recommend Green Room. Saulnier is proving himself to be an excellent director who captures authenticity and hurts your soul with it.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

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