Blue Ruin is a revenge thriller directed by Jeremy Saulnier, starring Macon Blair as a man who is out to exact revenge on a murderer, recently released from prison. However, as his relatively unplanned plan goes forth, he realizes that he’s starting a circle of violence that will be difficult to stop, and that will put not just himself, but perhaps his estranged family in danger.
Right from the start, the film oozes atmosphere. It presents a dark, gritty, realistic landscape full of rust, rugged faces, and broken glass. The first 10 minutes unfold slowly, and surely, showing us the life that our protagonist Dwight is living, basically homeless, eating from trash cans and living in his car. It isn’t until a few minutes in that we see that a man is being released from prison, who has clearly wronged Dwight in some terrible way, and we get the sense that this is why Dwight is living this way. This ten to fifteen minutes culminates in what is usually the climax of a Hollywood revenge thriller. But Saulnier sticks it right at the beginning, and that’s because Blue Ruin is no ordinary ‘revenge thriller.’
The genius of this film lies in a few areas. One of them being that it is dealing with revenge in a different way. On a grander scale. This isn’t a film about us following, and wanting, this vengeance to be enacted. We actually see the act take place, before we even fully understand what the ‘bad guy’ did, which is absolutely brilliant screenwriting in my opinion. What we’re actually seeing is how hatred and vengeance induced violence is a part of a cycle that never ends, and how actions throughout life can have devastating effects throughout generations. It’s about so much more than the moment itself, but more about the implications of that moment, which is what was so engrossing about the film.
Another aspect of the film that made it so engrossing, was the details. There were so many details throughout that you don’t think much of at the time, but actually have a big impact on how I viewed the film. It was the details that gave it this crazy credibility, which led to a much more terrifying experience. For example, early on, Dwight tries to steal a gun, but when he goes to load it he sees that it has a pad lock on the chamber. We watch him try to break it open, to no avail. He throws it out. This is just one of the many little challenges Dwight faces along the way, because he is just a normal guy, and unlike in Hollywood, he faces normal, real life problems.
Macon Blair’s performance itself, as Dwight, is wonderful. He’s such an awkward, everyday guy, attempting to do things so far outside his character, that it makes for unique viewing. There’s nothing impressive about him at all. But this is what makes his journey all the more relatable and interesting to watch. Blair is able to portray an incredible slow, and subtle development throughout, to where the is becoming more and more comfortable, but at the same time, more and more mentally drained. The support cast are also fantastic, and each and every one added to the atmosphere and genuine nature of the film.
The direction of some of the suspense scenes was Hollywood caliber, presented in a low budget, gritty way. Absolutely stunning at times. The violence itself is pretty graphic, bloody and brutal, but it isn’t unnecessarily so. It’s not that common throughout, which makes it more impactful when we’re quickly bludgeoned with a moment of brutal violence, before returning to the struggles of our everyday man. All the way to the climax, the film is tense and unforgiving, which is just what a real ‘revenge thriller’ ought to be.
I can say that Blue Ruin is one of my favorite, if not my total favorite, indie movies of the year. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year period. If you have access to it, please check it out as soon as you can. It is a unique viewing experience in my opinion. If you’re looking for real drama and suspense, Blur Ruin is a great place to find it.
Check out the trailer: