Saturday, April 30, 2016

Green Room

Patrick Stewart's two most famous characters are Professor X and Captain Picard. In many of his roles, he projects an intelligent and restrained sense of authority. He is a father figure to those he leads, someone you trust is going to base his decisions on what's right and what's best for the people he commands. Those are nice traits in a leader, but what if he's the bad guy?

One of the many inspired touches taken by Green Room (2015), written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, is how it plays off that persona audiences have come to associate with Stewart. Yes, he's playing the villain, Darcy, the leader of a backwoods group of white supremacists, and he orders them to commit several heinous acts (one young follower agrees to be stabbed and another agrees to take the blame for it, so the police will be thrown off the original crime), but this is still largely the same Patrick Stewart we know and recognize, and that's what makes his actions and decisions all the more horrific.

I'm going to do my best to avoid revealing too many plot details. Green Room works very well because so much that occurs is unpredictable, and the shocking moments are shocking not because they're loud noises that make you jump but because they are that violent, gory, unexpected, and out-of-nowhere. Like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, many developments occur without the traditional movie buildup and foreshadowing. They aren't random so much as they are the strict, logical result of the situation.

The plot concerns a young punk rock band (among them Anton Yelchin) who, after losing out on a gig, get re-booked at the aforementioned compound overseen by Darcy. They perform their setlist and are about to leave when they see something they shouldn't have seen, resulting a pressure cooker in the titular room. At a times trapped in a hostage situation, a siege, and a Mexican standoff, the band tries to figure a way out, along with Amber (Imogen Poots), who they're not sure they can trust.

From a thematic standpoint, Green Room is not particularly deep, apart from the punk rockers discovering they're not as hardcore as they set themselves up to be; there are some really nasty, evil people separate from the musicians who siphon gas to refill their tour van and play in coffee shops. The ideology of white supremacists, what drives a person to join a hate group, is not really explored apart from one line by Amber.

The strength of the film is its tension and physicality. It goes back to the bomb under the table rule described by Hitchcock, waiting for the violence to erupt as the discomfort and tension accumulates. Much of the film is devoted to both sets of characters talking among themselves as they try to determine a strategy and figure out what they need to do to come out on top and alive.

When the violence explodes, it is nasty, brutal, graphic, and sadistic. These characters go through the ringer, and it's not pretty. The blood and gore is played straight and realistic, and it hurts like Hell. When these people fight, attacking each other with box cutters and what not, they get hurt, and it's not clean or easy. Many watching the film will do so through with their hands over their eyes at the worst parts. Rarely has a gun shot been presented on film in so sudden, final, and destructive of a manner. There are closeups of ugly wounds, but mostly, the film shows just enough for the audience to create mental pictures that convey just how awful it would be to die that way.

Is this a fun movie? Not really. It's not campy or jokey, and the violence is not exciting or glamorized but desperate, bleak and painful. As an example of crafting suspense and shocks, it's a superior thriller, strongly directed and acted.

No comments:

Post a Comment