95 glorious minutes
Four days into January I made the rather brash claim that The Revenant would be my Film of the Year (as in this year, 2016 – I know, you might think I was jumping the gun somewhat). Halfway through Green Room, knuckles white as I gripped my notebook and couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen, I put this exhilarating, gasp-out-loud thriller right up there alongside the Leonardo DiCaprio Oscar winner.
Sadly, Green Room probably isn’t Academy Award fodder, but it is the best kind of independent movie: brilliantly written, perfectly performed and utterly enthralling. The simple story begins with a young punk rock band travelling to a poorly-paid gig in the middle of Nowheresville, USA, where they become embroiled in criminal behaviour and wind up fighting for their lives against a gang of skinheads. It’s incredibly violent and frequently gruesome, but Green Room ascends far above Hollywood’s gratuitously brutal and increasingly unoriginal forays into “edgy” territory thanks to its terrific young cast and a nail-biting plot.
Central among our heroes (because my goodness are we rooting for these kids to survive) is the recently tragically deceased Star Trek star, Anton Yelchin, although this is actually a very fairly-distributed ensemble piece which includes Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and British actress Imogen Poots, all of them up against an unexpectedly frightening and utterly superb Patrick Stewart, whose pitch-perfect disingenuity keeps us on our toes as much as it does the youngsters.
The other reason to rave about Green Room is that it comes from the brain of writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, whose second feature, the quirky thriller Blue Ruin, won film festival prizes from Marrakech to Cannes. Saulnier traditionally casts his childhood friend, the deceptively gormless Macon Blair, and has a knack for creating realistically ordinary characters who wind up in desperate situations which descend into outrageous but engrossing chaos.
You can usually tell if a film is worth five stars by whether you’re entirely lost in its machinations and not suddenly thinking about dinner afterwards. All I know is occasionally I realised my jaw was agape in wide-eyed horror. Green Room is sensational.