Sean K. Cureton

Committing Fratricide In Green Room

In Movie Reviews: 2016 on May 28, 2016 at 11:38 am
Green Room

A24

Green Room
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
3 out of 4 stars

Like his preceding directorial effort, Green Room sees writer-director Jeremy Saulnier grappling with an inherently violent revenge fantasy wherein everyone equally plays the parts of victim, perpetrator, and vigilante. Like Blue Ruin, Saulnier’s latest depicts two tight-knit groups of warring factions forced to murder one another in retaliation to grievous offenses both explicitly committed and hysterically intimated. Anton Yelchin (Star Trek Beyond), Patrick Stewart (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Alia Shawkat (Pee-wee’s Big Holiday), and Macon Blair (Blue Ruin) all come into an impossible situation by sheer accident, but that doesn’t mean that their resulting transgressions against one another will go unpunished. From the very onset of the film’s cold open first scene, wherein Yelchin and his punk rock band mates are huddled together in their van in the midst of a cornfield, there is an undeniable sense of claustrophobia that looms over the entire film’s fabric. Violence is a given in the world of Saulnier’s films, and as each of his protagonists begin to feel the constraints of living in close quarters with those who might wish to do them harm his scripts inevitably confront the self-defeating nature of retributive justice.

Libertarian might be too clearly defined a term to apply to the politics of the world created by Saulnier in Green Room as the anarchy at play gives birth to a chaos far too personally charged, lending the production the aura of an essentially perverted civil discourse. Despite the presence of Stewart and Blair as neo-Nazi club owners whose collective ulterior agenda is preexistent and well known, when Yelchin and his band mates mount an assault against said antagonists the stakes are raised to the level of approximate fratricide. The entire film is viscerally charged due to this emotional connection between characters on both sides of the line of fire, making the final battle one of devastating heartbreak and bitter reward. No one wins when human lives are at stake, and Saulnier appears certain of that fact in his undisguised recreation of explicitly violent scenes that never shy away from any of their suggested carnage. For a movie that is ostensibly about a murder in a neo-Nazi club, Green Room offers insight on human vulnerability and volatility that extends far beyond the implied politics of the former sub-cultural sect.

Blue Ruin might be a far more personal revenge fantasy, but Green Room extrapolates on the preceding individual narrative by applying it to a far more expansive and all encompassing social environment. After accidentally witnessing the murder for which Yelchin will be kept in captivity for the larger part of the film’s 95 minute runtime, the punk rock music scene is accordingly satirized in a surprisingly playful manner and in an entirely unexpected way. For all of the gruesome angst that drives the songs played by both Yelchin’s band and the offending neo-Nazi outfit, their rebellions arise from a similar stock and source. Each band is rebelling against conformist society but each one has taken their adolescent angst to different logical ends. Yelchin declares that he can’t see himself wearing a Minor Threat t-shirt well into middle age, which stands as an open acknowledgement of the shallow well from which his music derives, while Stewart has continued to quench his thirst on the dregs of that self-same, spiteful immaturity.

Saulnier is undoubtedly a leading talent within the contemporary thriller film genre among American filmmakers and Green Room only serves as further indication of his capacity. Films like Blue Ruin and Green Room suggest an underlying mastery that is yet to come, and each of the aforementioned productions appear to be building up to something far more substantial and morally progressive. With any luck Saulnier will bring viewers another revenge fantasy over the course of the next few years the likes of which will throw both Blue Ruin and Green Room in stark relief against a capping statement on violence. The politics of homicide in Saulnier’s fims thus far have proven tenuously upheld at best, as each murder depicted inevitably arises from deep-seated personal hurt, anger, and despair. Despite the overriding moral righteousness felt by his characters, Saulnier is far more interested in the devastation that is indirectly wrought by violence, not the misguided excuses subsequently concocted by its perpetrators.

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