Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button

Feature


After witnessing a shocking crime, the members of a young punk band – Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole), and Tiger (Callum Turner) – are unexpectedly thrust into a life-or-death battle to escape the clutches of a diabolical club owner (Patrick Stewart) and his ruthless henchmen. (From Liongate’s official synopsis)

 Green Room
In the span of only two movies, writer/director/cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier has positioned himself as the sensitive chronicler of white trash rural violence. His feature debut, Murder Party (2007), didn’t inspire major confidence with its sentimental attachment to ‘70s/‘80s horror and resentful satire of art student culture, but it was anchored in a strong concept and twisty, stage-play-like screenplay. His belated follow-up, Blue Ruin (2014), had very little in common with his practice run. High concepts and comedy were exchanged for pragmatic themes, mournful tones, and austere cinematography. Blue Ruin’s massive critical success has led Saulnier to continue along a similar track for his third film, Green Room. Both of his ‘colour themed’ movies feature simplistic and familiar B-movie plots – Blue Ruin is a revenge movie and Green Room is essentially a survival horror movie – that are refined with engaging characters and complex emotional quandaries.

Green Room isn’t as sombre as its predecessor, because it is dealing with completely different genre conventions. This isn’t a rumination on the nature of vengeance – it is a siege movie and there’s little time to waste on thoughtful reflection. This time, Saulnier leaves cinematography duties to Sean Porter so that he may flex his suspense and action skills with expressive editing and squirm-inducing mayhem. He also doles out more levity here than he did with Blue Ruin, but not so much that it ever really breaks the relentless tension. It’s still a Saulnier-brand movie, through and through. The bursts of violence are brutal and emotionally charged, yet the interactions between them are often understated and melancholic. Before the more unrelenting and gory terror unfolds, the film expertly recreates the nerve-wracking suspense of a delicate social truce. By the time the situation has gone belly up (and bowels out), the tension is already almost too much to bear.

 Green Room
Saulnier’s success with actors has increased throughout his short career, in part due to the calibre of actors he is now working with. Patrick Stewart is the obvious scene stealer as he mumbles his way through a grandfatherly villain role with a very strange West Coast accent, but Imogen Poots gives him a run for his money, and Anton Yelchin achieves a huge character arc over the brief running time. Hell, even the dog pulls off an incredibly poignant performance. And these aren’t thinly-layered characters, either. The protagonists are introduced as naive punks with an obnoxious sense of musical idealism. We have to learn to like them, because of their moral choices. On the other side of the equation, the skinheads aren’t exclusively scumbags or at least aren’t all mindless creeps. Blue Ruin star Macon Blair plays an especially prudent skinhead named Gabe, who tries and utterly fails to diffuse the situation. Saulnier even conveys a genuine connection between the villains and heroes before the murder is uncovered. As the skinheads start to accept and enjoy the band’s music, the sound drops out, is replaced by rapturous melodies, and the image slows to super slow motion, turning the mosh pit into a blissful dance. It is a short moment, but it shows fantastic filmmaking instincts on Saulnier’s part.

 Green Room

Video


Green Room was shot using Arri Alexa digital HD cameras and is presented here in 1080p, 2.40:1 video. Saulnier and Porter really pushed the digital format to its limit in terms of sheer darkness. Every ounce of this movie is caked in a bleak gloom. Even the daytime sequences are mostly shot indoors with sunlight barely eking through the curtains. Fortunately, the transfer’s clarity ensures that the fine details are still clear within the crucial highlights. There are some very tight lines and textures, but the use of shallow focus and a general lack of big close-ups means that there are also loads of pillowed edges and smooth gradations. Though there is notable noise throughout the film (due mostly to the darkness), these soft bits are rarely blocky. The palette is quite limited and changes based on location. Non-threatening spaces (or spaces that haven’t become threatening just yet) tend to be warmer and the yellow/orange quality doesn’t completely squeeze out the more subtle highlight colours (clothing, decoré, et cetera). Threatening spaces are dominated by greens and blues that don’t allow many other hues to escape, aside from red, which comes in handy where those gory images are concerned.

Audio


Green Room is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. Music plays a huge role in the film and, in turn, is the most expressive part of the soundtrack. This includes the live stage show sequences, in-film punk and heavy metal selections, and the atmospheric score by Brooke and Will Blair, who have now worked with Saulnier on all three of his movies. The performance sounds feature impressive directional movement and immersive qualities. The sound designers have to take some liberties by turning the music down enough for us to hear the actors speaking, of course, but the placement is more or less perfect. The Blairs’ discordant music moans and groans throughout the stereo and surround channels, preserving the stomach-churning anxiety. The fighting leads to other cool sound design tricks, including punchy, neatly-placed gunshots and the steady drone of amplifier feedback, which the protagonists use to fend off bloodthirsty dogs.

 Green Room

Extras


  • Commentary with Jeremy Saulnier – This isn’t the most energetic commentary I’ve ever heard, but the writer/director does a fine job running the listener through the production process while remaining relatively screen-specific. He discusses some of the autobiographical aspects (don’t worry, his experiences only informed the mayhem), his filmic inspirations, shooting a live band that was made up of actors, and other technical aspects. Like many directors, he also spends an awful lot of time praising his cast & crew and complaining about the difficulties of working on a small(ish) budget (though he is almost always self-effacing, rather than whiny).
  • Into the Pit: Making Green Room (10:00, HD) – This relatively short behind-the-scenes featurette is better than the average EPK fluff and includes cast & crew interviews, as well as raw, on-set footage and clips of the actors playing as the in-film band during a wrap party.
  • Trailers for other Lionsgate releases


 Green Room

Overall


I admit that I wasn’t completely sold on Jeremy Saulnier after seeing Blue Ruin. It was a very well-made and smart movie, but there wasn’t a whole lot setting it apart from a sea of similar revenge dramas. Green Room isn’t only a technical improvement on its predecessor – it’s proof that Saulnier is inventing and refining his own cinematic brand. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray looks good for such a dark and purposefully murky film and the impressionistic, punk and metal-infused soundtrack is searing. More extras would’ve been nice, but the director’s commentary is still pretty substantial.

 Green Room

 Green Room

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


Links: