Green Room ★★★★★

In Green Room, a band called the Aint Rights, broke and idealistic as young adults often are, find themselves trapped inside of a small room within the confines of a neo-nazi club along with a young woman, Amber. They have just seen the murder of Amber's friend and are thus witnesses. So begins a standoff between the five people within looking to escape, and the large group of white supremacists blocking the exits.

The technical mastery within the film is undeniable. Director Jeremy Saulnier’s backwoods slasher might be one of the most well crafted horror-thrillers of the millennium. He sustains moments of absolute terror with confidence: in one scene that seems to embody the film as a whole, a shaken, shell shocked Amber slowly walks up to two men wrestling over a shotgun, before calmly executing one point blank. Her slow gait, seemingly uncaring now is perfectly characteristic, and acts as a microcosm of the entire film, which slowly and painstakingly wrings out every moment of tension so that it is all felt. But not all is excessive; Saulnier is economical with its violence and gore. Rather than over-utilize the horrifyingly real makeup effects, we are given small bursts; the violence never allows itself to become over-saturated. The film manages to maintain a perfectly taut and even fast pace within its ninety minute run time in which not one minute feels wasteful, and not one scene of visceral brutality feels unearned.

As the fight for survival continues, Saulnier brilliantly charts the band member’s regression into savagery (or is it adaptation for survival), and the neo-nazi’s scrounge for humanity. By giving them individual motivations, Saulnier does the impossible: he makes the enemy, a group portrayed in culture as inherently evil, a sympathetic crowd. Sure Patrick Stewart's mastermind Darcy is obviously evil in the darkness of the night, in the daytime he is nothing but an old man. No solid moral line defines all of these villains - they teeter the line of good and bad, exposing glimmers of humanity. They feel love, and envy, and are fighting for the same thing that the young band members are: survival.

This fight, of which we are almost immediately thrust into strips away humanity and leaves bare remnants of past society. A recurring question appears, “what is your desert island band?” And captures not only the passion for music but also the insecurities of our main character and their attempts to recollect humanity amidst inhumane attempts at survival. Juxtaposition between the people and the dogs creates a further contrast between animal and human- even the latter, in its primal state, exemplifies signs of allegiance and love in one pivotal but subtle moment: the enemy to his lover, the dog to their owner, and one friend to another.

None of this depth and complexity within the characters would be possible without believable performances. Stewart stands out with a terrifying cool complexion, his confidence evocative of experience, as if he has dealt with this before successfully. With sparse dialogue and almost playful manipulation of his captives all come together to form such an evil and memorable villain. Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots also shine; the evolution which parallels their regression is fascinating and extremely watchable. They and the rest of the Aint Rights: Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner, with a combined vulnerability but simultaneous resourcefulness and willingness to come to arms all create likable characters, whose fates are always in question. His portrayal of the band as tight knit and their friendship to each other is completely earned, even if it is later discarded in their escape attempts when nothing matters but their own lives. Saulnier accentuates this with an unpredictability which threatens the characters at each turn.

By keeping the neo-nazi sanctuary's layout a mystery, the audience is also trapped in the labyrinthine structure as well. Its mercurial nature and impossible layout provides a persistent sense of claustrophobia. This applies to the mystery surrounding Darcy's constant attempts to goad the band out as well. Though we are given some perspective on his plans, we are never fully allowed to know where they hide or where they could possibly come from. We are left just as clueless as the prey; it is a terrifying notion - and adds to the aspect of the film which denies its viewer any comfort or safety.

A green room is not necessarily green (this one isn't) but the characters still find themselves shrouded by neon glows of the color. Their messy inexperience indelibly shows and reflects off of them, but so does their resourcefulness once that innate sense of survival clicks in and overcomes them. Perhaps it also exemplifies the easy inclination to change within youth, all in the matter of minutes. The recurring color imagery is further reinforced by Tiger's hair, which keeps each scene filled with the color, and, to an extent, Amber's name - an intermediary of gold and orange.

Throughout the film, Saulnier's devotion to the subject, to the music and the whole aesthetic of the film is felt. The whole concept of music needing to be experienced in person is such a noble sentiment. In the performance scene, the constant shifts between blaring death metal and slow motion dreamy elation is such a power representation of the rage and invigorated fury that the group is able to channel. The connection that is immediately forged between the audience and the band through their collective rage is eminent. As a result of Saulnier's passion, the script as a whole feels genuine. The dialogue, which would otherwise be tacky, instead feels extremely believable, and has quite the amount of memorable lines to boot. Here are one-liners that don't feel obsessed with being cool, but are rather extremely sharp and clever and even lighthearted at times - products of the environment that are completely sold by the desperate performances.

Green Room, however, like music, cannot fully be experienced vicariously through text - it is something that requires to be seen.

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