Green Room

By Tim McEown

Mailed on April 27, 2016

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StarStarStarStarHalf Star

Dear Jeremy Saulnier

Dear Jeremy,

Green Room is a great film. The story unfolds seamlessly and is populated by characters that are fully realized. From beginning to end this is a tremendous piece of grindhouse art.

Part of Green Room’s charm is that it’s a simple story: a group of down on their heels punk rockers takes an ill-fated gig at a Skinhead clubhouse in the woods—and from there things go from bad to attack dogs.

Green Room is unrelenting from the first frame of the film. You manage to create tension within scenes that seem, on the surface, entirely benign. Some of that comes from a restless camera that creates a claustrophobic, jittery atmosphere—but there is also an indefinable quality of desperation that clings to the characters, and I’m not really sure how you managed that.

Aside from the psychological tension there are scenes involving graphic physical trauma, as well as the kind of cruelty only humans are capable of—especially humans that use Swastikas as wallpaper. Still, none of the men and women who populate this world ever seems cartoonish or one-dimensional. There is true depth of character in Green Room—a sense that this is a real place populated by real people.

There is also a quality to Green Room that defies categorization. It has the look and feel of a high-end indie, but it somehow transcends that limitation as well. That uniqueness is partially due to how understated and invisible your direction is. You allow the story to unfold without stepping in to announce yourself with the kind of flourishes that often define auteur cinema. This allows the audience to involve itself directly with the story in front of them without having to negotiate your looming presence—as opposed to the way you’re never not aware that you’re watching a Tarantino film.

That lack of pretension is refreshing in these days of branded material that so often sees the personality of the creators trump the tale they are telling. And the story, while simple and straightforward, is told in a compelling way, and with tremendous economy. Every moment matters.

Green Room, from the opening sequence to the last few moments of the film, never loses momentum. A lot of that is due to your tight script, compelling and well-cast characters and a kind of boots on the ground veracity. That authenticity perhaps is Green Room's greatest strength. In the same way that people are instinctively repelled by human CGI replicants because there’s something not quite right in their depictions (see: The Uncanny Valley) audiences’ can tell when a story is fundamentally implausible—either because it breaks its own internal logic or the characters simply behave in ways that seem intuitively wrong. It’s a subtle distinction, but can really make the difference between a moderately interesting entertainment and something really special.

It’s always exciting to discover someone so in command of their craft, especially someone so young. I have deliberately avoided your first big feature Blue Ruin because I know I’m going to have to man up to get through it. After Green Room though, I really have no choice: I have to dive in. And that is the highest praise I know how to give.



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