Blue Ruin came out in 2013 was easily one of my favourite films of the year. This review was originally posted at Filmoria.
Jeremy Saulnier is a name you better get used to. Writer, director and photographer of the brilliant indie revenge thriller Blue Ruin, he will need to watch his back if he carries on like this. Everyone will be after him and his considerable talent and there are bound to be a few directors jealous enough of his skills to try and take him out themselves. For that matter, the magnificently bearded lead Macon Blair is also a serious talent to watch.
Blue Ruin is the story of Dwight (Macon Blair), a homeless drifter who takes baths in empty houses, sleeps in his car and gets food from anywhere he can. Dwight is the silent type; his mouth seemingly lost beneath his impressively overgrown beard. When he finds out that Wade Cleland, the man responsible for the murder of his parents has been released from prison, Dwight immediately swings into action, carrying out his burning desire for revenge. However, killing Wade may only be the beginning of Dwight's one man rampage of revenge.
Because unfortunately for him, Dwight is no Rambo. He hasn't got the skills, the savagery or the insanity to just pick off bad guys left, right and centre. He is clumsy and clearly crap at all this killing stuff. Though he is committed to his cause and clever enough to carry it out with the possibility of getting away with it, he is also just an ordinary guy. His early mishaps with a knife show his worrying lack of prowess in the weapon-wielding department and it makes him believable, sympathetic and impossible not to root for.
Blue Ruin starts off like a deceptively typical indie movie; all intriguing close ups with shallow depth of field and bereft of dialogue for most of the first half hour. The composition of early shots are gorgeous with the camera later prowling around the dark locations building an unbearable silent tension. The subtle score exacerbates this, brooding in the background and anticipating the violence. Suddenly and viciously, Blue Ruin becomes a black comedy and edge-of-your-seat thriller.
And when it comes, the first murder is brutal, bloody and swift. The first act of the film ends where most revenge thrillers would finish but Blue Ruin has plenty more in store. The exact details of the murder that has spurred this mission are deliciously drip fed through sparse bursts of dialogue, punctuating the scenes of silent Dwight stalking. After he seems to have succeeded in his goal, it suddenly and frantically becomes clear that what started out simple has just become far more complex as Dwight has ignited a terrifyingly dangerous family feud.
From revenge thriller to home invasion movie and back again, Blue Ruin is never less than absolutely thrilling. As Dwight rolls around in his old battered car, he beautifully blurs the lines between victim and predator. Though he is a man of very few words, he is impossible to take your eyes off. Macon Blair is revelatory in the role, transforming his features so he is almost two different characters during the story. His amateur assassin becomes reluctant protector to his estranged family and his bravery, resourcefulness and determination are hilariously balanced by his total authenticity, lack of faith in himself and deep sadness he lugs around with him. It is a wonderful performance; at times bringing real warmth and empathy to the character while being darkly funny as he is forced to tend his wounds and deal in death. There clearly can't be a happy ending for poor Dwight who never smiles and takes no pleasure in his actions. He is a man driven to do what he simply has to do and he has no illusions that he deserves to get out alive. However you are guaranteed to wince with him when he is hurt and cheer him on when he takes revenge.
Helped along the way by an old friend who warns him not to make speeches before killing people, Blue Ruin is gripping from start to finish even when it pauses for pitch black humour. The villains may not have much shading, but their love of guns is enough to make them (for the most part) a mysterious and chilling foe. Bleakly funny, tense beyond words, breathtaking and heartbreaking, Blue Ruin is everything you could possibly want in a thriller. Dwight is undoubtedly one of the best characters of the year and his story will keep you riveted. As Dwight travels to another showdown, he hears a song about having no regrets on the radio. Like Dwight after his spree, you certainly won't have any regrets after seeing the brilliant Blue Ruin.
Watch the trailer:
Check out my review of writer/director Jeremy Saulnier's latest Green Room and watch out for my interviews with Saulnier and Green Room actor Callum Turner coming soon at Starburst Magazine.