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Blu-ray Review: Green Room

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green room

In 2013, with his incredibly taut revenge thriller Blue Ruin Jeremy Saulnier was hailed as a new, exciting genre auteur in the American independent scene. Three years later he returns with a nightmarish, claustrophobic yet life-affirming follow up – a tale of survival against all odds from a viciously unexpected threat, which confirms Saulnier’s confident and vibrant voice, a blend of Hitchcock and Lynch with a bit of Tarantinian pulp vibes.

Whilst in his previous effort the filmmaker had opted for an underlying and understated tension running from start to finish with a few outbursts of violence coming off almost as much needed relief, this time around things go dark faster and in glorious gore fashion.

A young punk band in need of a career break takes on a gig at an underground club lost in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, frequented by neo-Nazi skinheads and run by white supremacists as a front for a drug business led by the enigmatically evil club owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart).

After playing their set, the band is ready to get back on the road but one of their members forgets her cell phone charging in the green room and when Pat (Anton Yelchin), their timid unofficial spokesman goes back in to grab it, he discovers a girl that’s just been murdered with a stab wound to her head and all parties involved trying to cover it up.

When Pat tries to call the police, Gabe (Macon Blair), Darcy’s right hand man, grabs the phone and with the help of another bouncer, shoves Pat and the band back inside the green room where they are held, whilst allegedly waiting for Darcy to show up with the cops and sort the issue out. But when the police shows up Gabe astutely fabricates a believable cover up. It doesn’t take long for Pat and his friends to realise they’re being played and that Darcy is only intentioned to dispose of them since they’ve become a liability. What our gang don’t imagine though is the level of sadistic violence the neo-nazi group is ready to unleash in order to get rid of the problem.

Like in every horror thriller worthy of this name, the plot inevitably turns into a game of survival not everyone will manage to see all the way through to the end but it’d be reductive to consider Green Room just a mindless body-count slasher film. Although not exactly inducing warm and fuzzy feelings, and starting off more like an ensemble piece, the story progressively finds its emotional core in Pat, whose journey from timid young man who wouldn’t hurt a fly to improvised warrior who’s desperate to live, poses some thought-provoking questions about the unexpected resources our survival instinct discover, when put to the test.

Anton Yelchin is phenomenal as usual and couldn’t have been more perfectly cast. His boyish innocence and nice guy quality aptly match his character’s type on the surface but it’s his incredible ability to master the inner nuances of the human condition that brings Pat to life in a way no other actor could’ve accomplished so effectively. Yelchin effortlessly paints the picture of terror on Pat’s face the second the boy realizes he and his friends have no way out but death, however, when that fear materializes in unbearable physical pain, the meek boy has no choice but turn into a fully fledged man.

It is unfathomable to think that Yelchin has recently died in a freak accident whose gruesome details eerily popped to my mind whilst watching Pat suffering on screen. Yet my second viewing of Green Room without the surprise factor, a year later since seeing it for the first time at the BFI London Film Festival, still didn’t make the experience any less unsettling.

With the help of Sean Porter’s cinematography vividly capturing the beautiful landscape of the Pacific Northwest and the claustrophobic environment of the skin-heads club, Jeremy Saulnier’s flair for impeccably crafting mood and atmosphere, transports you front and centre inside the action. The filmmaker’s gifted approach to create a compelling narrative through the use of visual storytelling and affecting soundscape is matched by his ability to direct his actors with an intensity aptly measured against the level of nail-biting tension in which the characters are submerged.

The young cast rounded up by Saulnier around Yelchin includes three impressive British rising stars – Imogen Poots, Callum Turner and Joe Cole – but also Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development fame, David W. Thompson, Mark Webber and of course Saulnier’s muse Macon Blair who was Blue Ruin’s unforgettable protagonist and still manages to make the most of his supporting role this time around. Lastly we can’t of course omit Sir Patrick Stewart who keeps choosing compelling roles in small indies alongside his flashier appearances and absolutely excels at moulding this creepy gentlemanly villain in such an eerie and iconic way that it gets under your skin from start to finish.

The Blu-ray edition of Green Room is excellent on all technical specs levels and offers a behind-the-scenes/making-of featurette with an insightful look at the filmmaker’s creative process and collaborative work with his cast and crew and of course plenty of interviews with all the major players involved. Watching Anton Yelchin’s bits is extremely bitter-sweet and if you’re a huge fan like me, you can’t help but still be incredulous that he’s no longer amongst us.

The mere consolation we’re left with is that the talented thespian had already shot a few more projects before his untimely death that we can look forward to seeing in the near future. However, it is heartbreaking how Yelchin was weeks away from starting production on his directorial debut that his Green Room co-star Callum Turner was supposed to star in. Given his renowned passion for cinema, there’s no doubt he would’ve announced himself as a new exciting young auteur to watch but sadly, we’ll never be able to see the fruit of his labour behind the camera.

5-out-of-5

Green Room is now out in the UK on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital HD.

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