Greenlight works as a thriller, but I can also see it being a cathartic outlet for student filmmakers looking to cut their teeth in an exclusive industry.
The film’s lead character is a young aspiring filmmaker, Jack (Chase Williamson), looking for a shot to direct a full-length feature. His short film background is seen as impressive, but not taken seriously by people bankrolling expensive projects. Through some on-set networking, Jack meets with seasoned producer Moseby (Chris Browning), who is willing to give Jack a chance at directing a modestly budgeted schlocky thriller titled The Sleep Experiment. Desperate for experience and respect, Jack strikes while the iron is hot and accepts the job.
The newbie, however, doesn’t inquire enough and Moseby eventually exposes some fine print: due to some unresolved issues with the film’s leading man, Damien (Victor Turpin), his death scene has to be real. If Jack refuses to follow through, Moseby won’t only sully Jack’s career, he’ll make life a living hell for him.
Introducing a subtle meta nod, Greenlight is director Graham Denman feature-length debut. But unlike Jack who gradually spins out of control as he conceals Moseby’s scheme, Denman commits to the film’s tension with focused dedication. His tight direction is part of the reason why the film is able to make a seamless switch in tone as Jack’s heady excitement on the first day of shooting turns into clammy fear as he dreads the final day of production. The transition is also able to stick its landing because Chase Williamson’s performance as a doomed dreamer is on the money.
Greenlight deals with some wishy-washy logic, however. Jack, for instance, wants to spill the beans about Moseby, but does so in scenes where the malicious producer could turn up at any moment. It nearly takes him until the third act to realize that the privacy of a house might be the safest place to confess. In relation, there are some other inexplicable exchanges where smart characters suddenly can’t think for themselves. The film also has a pat conclusion that feels like an aloof alternative to how Denman would actually like to end the movie.
Nonetheless, Greenlight is a pleasant surprise. It takes a special movie to put a new meaning on a phrase and, let me tell you, never have the words “and, cut!” been more nerve-racking.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie