Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, David W. Thompson, Eve Plumb, Stacy Rock
Director Jeremy Saulnier’s follow up to 2007’s Murder Party is a patient and intense revenge thriller which is sure to surprise viewers based on its initial premise. You’d expect a gore fest here, but if that’s what you came for then you will be left short- changed. For, Blue Ruin is at its most interesting when it is quiet and reserved and building its tension.
After an assassination gone wrong Dwight (Blair) is forced to stoop to violent levels in order to protect his sister and her two children. In doing so he finds himself pitted against the criminal Cleland family and he has to begin the slow bloody process of killing them off one by one in order to protect his own relatives from harm. Living out of his parent’s old car (the Blue Ruin of the title) Dwight’s path ultimately destroys his sense of self as he is far removed at the film”s end from the person he was truly meant to be.
So as you would imagine a brief glance at the plot synopsis would lead you to believe you are going witness something rather violent. At certain points the film’s violence does reach extreme levels such as when Dwight tries to pull a crossbow bolt from his own leg with a pair of pliers or when he executes his first botched killing. However, the films strength is not in these moments. It’s power comes in the build up to these violent pieces so that when they do occur you are taken from your comfort zone and forced to confront them.
The beauty of this as a revenge thriller is that the central character is rather quiet and unassuming. Dwight looks like he would be more at home sat behind a desk in an office than wielding a shotgun or a knife. Never in the film does he appear confident with the world of violence he inhabits and so we as viewers can sympathise with his quest to protect his family. Each time he kills someone he attempts to apologise first, which isn’t something you really see in a revenge thriller typically.
The film does share a lot of synergy with films like Jeff Nichols’ Shotgun Stories and Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace yet it looks and feels like completely different at times, at points it doesn’t even seem to fit in this genre. There is the sense that if Dwight had not executed his first killing that the events of Blue Ruin would never occur. The wrath of the The Gaffney family is only provoked by his own actions initially. This is where we can argue that the film veers from a revenge film into a mere observation of one man’s harrowing journey into violence and self destruction.
There is also the beauty to this film that you know the narrative is informed majorly by events off screen. The story itself could even be a sequel as so much has happened already by the time we first meet Dwight sleeping in the back of his car. Saulnier gives us merely a snippet of action from what feels like the ending of a film stretched out over 90 minutes or so. There is no time for character construction or complex narrative explanations. We centre on Dwight and all that revolves around him and are asked to build the rest of the story for ourselves as the film progresses.
Ultimately your enjoyment of this film will depend upon how patient you can be. If you’re wanting to see something like Taken you’ll be left wanting. Blue Ruin doesn’t seek engage your appetite for action but it asks you to look at the human consequences of revenge in a realistic way. Scott Cooper did this very well with the final scene in Out of the Furnace but that film left you with the feeling that Christian Bale’s character didn’t necessarily need to kill. Blue Ruin leaves you with no doubt that what Dwight is doing is for the best when we finally meet members of The Cleland family in close quarters. Macon Blair puts in a career defining performance here and Jeremy Saulnier has surely announced his arrival on the independent film scene with a rather subtle bang. If you’re willing to give it your time then Blue Ruin will reward you for that investment.