“It’s funny. You were so scary at night.”
There are some movies that make you question where you stand on Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory – Green Room is one of them, and I don’t think I’d survive.
With white power slogans subtly displayed throughout the film’s central location, a neo-Nazi skinhead bar in the desolate Oregon backwoods (led by Sir Patrick Stewart!?), the timing of the film’s release is a eerily relevant in the era of a Trump America. Green Room creates a raw, gut-wrenching survival experience that had me white-knuckled throughout the entire movie.
Even Sir Patrick Stewart (Darcy) 30 pages deep into reading the script, stopped reading to immediately set his home security alarms and open a bottle of scotch before finishing the script.
“Remember, it’s not a party,” Darcy tells his followers on stage in the microphone. “It’s a movement.” You’re damn right.
Green Room follows a young hardcore punk band from DC, the Ain’t Rights, who are nearing the end of their financially unsuccessful West Coast tour. The band accepts a last-minute gig in the backwoods of Oregon that they should have passed on. “Don’t talk politics,” they’re warned prior to performing in front of a neo-Nazi audience. After their gig concludes, the band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder in the venue’s green room.
There’s something about this movie’s intense realism that struck me. If I accidentally found myself in a life or death situation, what would I do? Would I make it out alive? Probably not, but these aren’t normal questions people should have to wonder, but movies like Green Room prove that this gruesome plot isn’t far-fetched. The band members aren’t idiots. They’re just real people put in an extreme situation…at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Brooklyn-native and rookie director Jeremy Saulnier (this is his third film after 2007’s Murder Party and 2013’s Blue Ruin.) was integrated in the punk rock scene growing up and wanted to explore aspects of that culture on film.
“You had all kinds of different subgenres of punk rockers and hardcore kids and amongst them was the Nazi skinheads. That was definitely bizarre that people would be out in bright sunlight during a matinee show, proudly wearing swastikas. That element of danger stuck with me. I knew they were part of the world of punk and hardcore, yet very different as far as ideology and structure. They were like soldiers. But it just so happened that the Nazi skinhead element is what piqued my interest, as they’re our natural adversaries in this sort of world.” Jeremy Saulnier via GQ
The leader of the film’s militant group is none other than Professor X, Sir Patrick Stewart himself completely playing against type.
“He wanted this man to seem reasonable: doing his best to help these kids get out of this situation, while at the same time causing their destruction. There was a wonderful paradox in this character, and, you know, sometimes all that actors are looking for are some nice contrasts and contradictions to get hold of.” Sir Patrick Stewart via Vice
Saulnier wanted to create a situation that felt plausible and unfolded realistically instead of coming off as Hollywood fluff. “I want to know what it’s like to actually fight off adversaries if you’re in this siege situation. Whenever you see, like, some real shit that goes down, the takeaway is never that everyone acted brilliantly. It’s a clusterfuck, you know? And I like to explore that rather than the invincibility that I see so often in movies.” Saulnier via GQ
To warn all viewers, Saulnier’s execution of intense realism came off a little too perfectly. For those who get queasy with violence, Saulnier describes it as “full-frontal gore” that doesn’t hold back. But let’s be clear that there’s nothing sadistic about the film’s violence; everything that happens serves a narrative purpose.
Green Room is a glimpse into a reality most of us are unfamiliar with, and it unapologetically taps into your most primal fears that are rarely explored. I’ve lauded this as one of the greatest movies of 2016, and I encourage everyone to see. But you’ve been warned.