Describing Jeremy Saulnier as a filmmaker is easier sometimes than listing his roles on Blue Ruin and Green Room. The young American writer, director and cinematographer is behind another prodigious, artful appropriation of a genre film -Green Room. With Blue Ruin it was vengeance, with Green Room his characters have "seen too much" and the characteristic horrors are presented in all their banality. An indie punk band on the road is living gig to gig, occasionally siphoning fuel to keep their grubby van's wheels turning – they are desperately short of funds after a gig falls through. Their 'nice guy' promoter sends them on a high paying make-up gig in a backwater 'white-power' compound. When they stumble on a dead girl they're trapped in the green room and have to decide what they're willing to do to escape.
The events of Green Room are genuinely harrowing. Saulnier (the film's cinematographer) wants to place you in the film like another character. There’s no visual trickery like James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw), Saulnier can introduce you to a house with an establishing shot and have you feel pangs of dread. Saulnier’s composition is clear, staged alongside and following the flow of the characters. The point of view though often feels penetrating because it constantly implies that the characters are isolated from the outside world. There’s never a sense though that this isolation is outside the norm, quite the contrary. This reinforces Saulnier's visual thesis of the fringe decay of America. Saulnier’s handling of the “white power” race groups too has intent. Instead of the characters being completely affronted by the existence of these kinds of backward groups in contemporary time, they feel perfectly aware that the simmering punk anger that drives their art is also co-opted by militaristic underground groups. Darcy (Stewart) grooming obedient skin head minions merely retreats into the background.
Saulnier crafts naturalistic, measured, almost desolate performances. When Patrick Stewart's Darcy arrives there’s a methodical calm to how he's willing to deal with the problem of death, imprisonment and extinguishing witnesses. It's strange and disconcerting seeing someone like Sir Patrick, who you so associate with the warmth of a Capt. or Prof. Macon Blair's Gabe (our leading hero from Blue Ruin) as the middle management skin head, who you can see is morally against what's been unfolding but is determined to pursue rank in spite of the outpouring of emotions that you can see flooding out of his eyes. Band members Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat like you’ve never seen her before) and Tiger (Callum Turner) all do such a great job of creating a sense of depth and understanding in their group, despite the band being on the run. The further they’re ensnared by this predicament, the more they’re willing to strip away the bravado and reveal the vulnerability behind their ‘punk rock’ personas.
In the period immediately following the passing of a performer, you view their final roles with such melancholic eyes. Anton Yelchin's final performances create such a raw tragic sentiment at this time. Pat is another incredible character on the young man's now finite body of work. Pat is fearless in spite of fear that's clearly spilling from his gaze and contorting his body. The final scene functions as both a devastating wakeup call and a beautifully subtle confession of the importance of art. Throughout the characters are asking one and other what their desert island albums are. Music is their identity, it matters. In the fall out of the events, Pat (Yelchin) leans toward Amber (Imogen Poots) and shares that he thinks he's finally figured out his 'desert island' album. She replies "tell someone who gives a shit," and the screen fades to black. Amber’s right, who could possibly give a shit after what they’ve experienced? Pat; and that hope cased within the bleak despair makes Saulnier an essential filmmaker to follow.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Written by: Jeremy Saulnier
Anton Yelchin ... Pat
Joe Cole ... Reece
Alia Shawkat ... Sam
Callum Turner ... Tiger
David W. Thompson ... Tad
Mark Webber ... Daniel
Macon Blair ... Gabe > Blue Ruin
Eric Edelstein ... Big Justin
Michael Draper ... Stagehand
Andy Copeland ... Stage Manager
Brent Werzner ... Werm
Lj Klink ... Guitarist (as LJ Klink)
Kasey Brown ... Drummer
Taylor Tunes ... Emily
Imogen Poots ... Amber
Kai Lennox ... Clark
Jake Love ... Twin #1
Kyle Love ... Twin #2
October Moore ... Cop #1
Joseph Bertót ... Cop #2 (as Joseph Bertot)
Patrick Stewart ... Darcy
Jacob Kasch ... Bartender (as Jake Kasch)
Samuel Summer ... Jonathan
Mason Knight ... Kyle
Colton Ruscheinsky ... Alan
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