2016. Jeremy Saulnier
Jeremy Saulnier's third film, Green Room, is a tense standoff piece that is wound so tightly it threatens to come undone under it's own exhausting framework, but manages to overcome. Saulnier's genius, an amazing cast, and various other elements come together to make Green Room easily one of the best films of 2016 thus far.
A punk band desperate for cash plays a gig at Neo-Nazi hangout. In the back, they witness a criminal act and are confined to the green room while the Nazis decide how to get rid of them. What follows is a terse tightrope of a film that never lets go of your throat.
The characters are real and make logical decisions. They feel pain the way you and I do and they lose themselves with fear, panic and despair, only to then rally and face their enemies head on.
Saulnier is not making films for awards. He's not making films to impress or to confuse. He has a lot to say about base human emotions during extreme duress, a concept he first explored in Blue Ruin which further evolves in this offering.
Green Room is lean and mean. There's no gloss. Every line of dialogue in the script (also by Saulnier) exists to either build your emotional connection to the characters (including the villains) or to communicate how tired both sides of the conflict are. Both the punks and the Nazis seem almost annoyed and inconvenienced by their sudden life or death entanglement and it's borderline comical at times while unflinchingly violent at others.
Sean Porter's cinematography is bare-bones and decidedly not flashy for most of the film, but when his eye chooses to focus on the human aspects on display, the film really shines. The entire first 15 minutes is a great example of how to the make the audience care about the characters with discreet, but sincere effort.
Macon Blair delivers one of the best performances in the film. His vague reluctance amidst the abrupt and sudden bloodshed is perfectly hidden behind his conformist demeanor and the viewer feels as if they are a fellow conspirator in his quiet dissent. Patrick Stewart delivers one of the most understated manifestations of evil ever filmed. Many complained about his lack of screen time, but I felt it only enhanced the myth of his villainous Darcy even more, and made you wait with anticipation for his next appearance.
Rounding out the cast are Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin. Yelchin, in his penultimate performance, delivers a great vulnerable turn as the band's leader Pat, while Poots steals the entire film with her deceptively deadly Amber. The duo's chemistry works so well you find yourself rooting for them despite the odds.
Probably the best part of Green Room is in the details. The red shoe laces, authentic female Nazi-Punk hairstyles, and of course the Sharpee Odin finale are all elements that show true creativity and signal Saulnier as a true up and comer.
Amanda Needham's costume design is amazing and must be mentioned. Everything about the characters you can read in what they wear. The punks are living out of a van-chic, while the Nazis wear their hate on their skin and in their dingy suspenders and doc martins. It's all so real and only helps to increase the visceral effect when the blood begins to flow and it does flow in copious amounts.
Green Room is a great film because it doesn't strive to be anything more than what it is. It is nothing special and that is precisely why it is so unique. The film's hilarious final exchange echoes the film's deadpan approach to the subject matter. Everything is fine until it's not and then monsters inside of all us come out to play. To the victors go the only prize: the privilege to do it all over again tomorrow.