Letterboxd Review: Green Room (2015)

While some films set about a complicated chess game of rising tension, this movie is appropriately a little more punk rock than that; it's not the arrangement of the notes, but rather the delivery. It's simplistic, and it's supposed to be. Subtlety is not very punk, and coincidentally Neo-Nazi punks (who can definitely fuck off, by the way) know nothing of subtlety either. As I helplessly watched this film happen to me, my chest seemed to tighten incrementally with every minute. It's a 90-minute shot of adrenaline, and the plot mirrors that.

As the horrors that befall the protagonists increase, they make more and more stupid decisions. They second-guess themselves. They plan, abandon plans, and re-plan. And I was right there with them. We don't get to know enough of the characters before the red-laced jackboots start to fall upon them, which sometimes works in films like this where the thrills need to get going and the audience can easily project themselves onto the confusion and anxiety portrayed. In this case, it worked some of the time. It depended on the actor. While Anton Yelchin (dearly departed shortly after the film released) and Alia Shawkat let their natural innocence and palpable intelligence do the work for them of establishing their survivor characters, Imogen Poots is tasked with being the self-assured character that lots of thrillers rely on. She barks orders and dismisses desperate escape ideas, failing to rise above being a sentient plot device. That's the screenwriter's fault, in my opinion. Poots does her damnedest to provide a cynical, dismissive counterpoint to Yelchin's softspoken sincerity.

Patrick Stewart seldom plays villains, and I'm glad. Watching him bring the same level of elegance and dignity of his beloved starship captain to the coldhearted monster leading the backwoods fascists was a bit like staring at an eclipse. His choices are exquisite in their predatory calculation and cool detachment. Neo-Nazis almost always seem to be portrayed with an educated older man at the top, and if that is a true portrayal it wouldn't surprise me. The young, idiotic idealism behind skinheads has to have some chicken-hawk at the reins, to signify order and culture. This power dynamic is crucial to Stewart's character, and it's what his performance is built upon.

While the film is staged and shot seemingly haphazardly to emphasize the chaos and lack of coordination, it does obstruct a lot of the more intense scenes. I don't know if this is to cover special effects shots or stunts, but some combination of the quick edits, fluorescent lighting, and crowded frame caused a headache behind the eyes for me. And that was in the time in between the hardcore punk music and the sickening violence. While noticeably the film refrains from leering and leaning on the shock value of the gruesome acts, it is unrelenting in depicting them in the moment. And I will confess that I wanted more time to explore the creepy-casual methods of Stewart's character and his typical operation of the "movement" full of young bulls. But I understand why that would probably kill the ambiance and alien disconnect between the normal people and the "true believers."

Watch this movie. Goodness, in 2017, with the way things are going, everyone needs to watch this movie and feel what I felt, hopefully. Everyone should have as corporeal an example as possible of what human monsters could be capable of.

This review is part of Kyle's Letterboxd profile where you can find more reviews not available here on the blog, including a list of films from his book, Cinema Autopsy, which is now available on Amazon.

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