Glasgow Film Festival: A merciless Patrick Stewart towers at the fore of this nail-biting thriller
‘This is a nightmare,’ concludes Pat (Anton Yelchin) as Green Room lurches toward its climax. He’s really not exaggerating. Things get, and then stay, seriously grim but Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) directs with vigour, wit and flair and the young cast act their socks off. It’s a compelling, horrifying look at off-the-grid America, introducing us to right-wing extremists who’ve fashioned their own secret society, and to the earnest punk rockers who blunder into their path.
The aforementioned musicians (played by Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner and Joe Cole) are determined to make it based solely on their scorching live performances, but are struggling to scrape together a living and secure gigs. A last-minute booking takes them off the beaten track to a venue ominously shrouded in woodland (and even more ominously decked-out in racist graffiti). Relatively unfazed by the situation and with typical rock ‘n’ roll bravado, they bash out a provocative anti-Nazi track in the face of danger. However, there’s a sinister surprise waiting for the quartet in the green room, as they stumble onto the aftermath of a murder and find themselves holed-up and under siege as venue owner / movement leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart) is brought in to extract them.
Their hellish ordeal comes alive in Sean Porter’s claustrophobic cinematography and the painfully convincing work of the performers who, as they try and fight their way out against impossible odds, are bludgeoned, sliced, bitten and shot. Yelchin and Imogen Poots (playing a traumatised friend of the deceased) are the stars of a competitive line-up, and the increased use of humour as the pair become dementedly weathered is a nice touch.
Darcy is smart, ostensibly respectable, and easily able to inspire trust; while all around him is heightened anxiety, Stewart delivers understated evil that, in tandem with the too-credible context, will induce chills. If the film sounds misanthropic it isn’t, presenting engaging characters that you’ll be cheering on to survive. Moreover, those our heroes are up against are far from one-dimensional thugs. Green Room certainly doesn’t mince its violence, forcing its players and audience alike to guts-it-out; luckily Saulnier has created a film as exhilarating as it is excruciating.
Screening on Tue 23 and Wed 24 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2016. General release from Fri 13 May.