There are filmmaking partnerships between director and actor that make for great cinema like Scorcese and DiCaprio, or Carpenter and Russell, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. When a director and actor have the kind of symbiotic relationship that makes great filmmaking seem effortless it makes for some truly special movies. In 2013 Fantastic Fest was rocked by an amazing film from a relatively unknown director in Jeremy Saulnier called Blue Ruin, starring producer Macon Blair. That film highlighted Jeremy’s adeptness at crafting some extremely tense situations and telling a story with an almost minimum amount of information. You’re presented with all you need to know and just strap in.
The simple premise of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ is the foundation of Green Room. A young heavy metal (or death metal as the kids call it?) punk band is making their way back home playing whatever piddly gigs they can get a hold of. They meet up with a fan who helps them arrange a gig in middle-of-nowhere neo-nazi skinhead bar where things going majorly wrong can’t help but happen. They stumble upon a murder in the green room as they’re leaving from their set and then the standoff begins.
That’s it. That’s the plot. Very simple, almost too simple, and it takes a great filmmaker to pull off not just a good film, but Jeremy Saulnier manages to make an outstanding film out of it. There is a moment where, when the music of the band in the film starts, instead of hearing what you’ve already heard earlier in the film, it cuts to slow motion and adds in a beautiful score that makes it seem like the ultra violent perception of neo-nazi skinheads is an almost unfair stereotype, that this is a group of people appreciating the beautiful things in life. Well that goes away quickly and then we’re placed neck deep in a standoff of Assault on Precinct 13 proportions.
Fresh off the success of Blue Ruin, one thing is evident, Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair have clout in Hollywood and were able to put together a cast with some recognizable names. Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Imogen Poots (Fright Night), round out the main cast of the unfortunately souls trapped on the wrong side of the intense predicament they are in. The standout here is Imogen Poots, who has proven to be a capable actress before, but this is so much different from anything she’s done before and she handles it all with great ease. Anton Yelchin delivers here, and it’s consistent with the quality he’s been capable of delivering. The biggest name in the cast, and perhaps biggest indicator as to how far Saulnier has come was being able to attach the incomparable Patrick Stewart to Green Room. As the owner of the neo-nazi bar, his menacing presence still manages to evoke a sense of calm at all times, even amongst the most intense moments of calamity.
Macon Blair pulls double duty as producer as well as actor in Green Room and his character is the glue that brings everything together. With all of the names in this cast, if he failed in his performance, Green Room wouldn’t work at all. That’s where the strength of this director/actor collaboration stems from, and the trust the two have in each other is always evident.
Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair are going to be names to be on the lookout for in the future. They’ve announced their next feature, which Jeremy calls part of his entire franchise stemming from his first feature, Murder Party, that isn’t as well known as Blue Ruin. Green Room is one of the most intense standoff films of recent years and there isn’t a moment here that doesn’t work. It is not to be missed.