Film Review: Blue Ruin
Some films seem destined for greatness; big name stars, prestigious directors and producers, awards buzz. Others, like Jeremy Saulnier’s mesmerising revenge drama Blue Ruin, sneak up out of nowhere and prove themselves as one of the very best films of the year.
Homeless, shambolic Dwight (Macon Blair, owner of the some of the most incredible eyes in cinema; you can see years of trauma and pain in one stare) lives in his car and scavenges for food and empty houses by day. When a police officer informs him that a killer is being freed from jail, Dwight snaps into action and tracks the man down. In the almost entirely wordless opening half hour, it is left to clever visuals and Blair’s acting to convey exactly what’s going on, and it works. However, it is difficult to divulge on much more of the plot because Blue Ruin is a film that works wonders if you know almost nothing about it going in.
An almost anti-revenge drama, Blue Ruin doesn’t hold back when it comes to bloodshed and visceral gore (the aftermath of an arrow to the leg will make even the toughest audience member wince), but those expecting a film along the lines of Dead Man’s Shoes or Get Carter will be sorely disappointed; Saulnier is more interested in the quiet moments, reflecting on the violence portrayed on-screen or silently portraying the extent of Dwight’s trauma. Rather than a trained killer or notorious hard man, Dwight is a deeply traumatised, almost entirely useless attacker, incapable of firing a gun on-target at close range or even remembering to take his car keys from the scene of the crime. As evidenced by Dwight trying to leave a voicemail on his attackers’ phone or his failure at gripping a rifle, there’s also a deadpan sense of black humour which recalls some of the very best work of the Coen Brothers.
Though all the cast are effective and Devin Ratray is terrific as the kindly school friend who helps Dwight learn how to shoot, the film belongs to Macon Blair. Almost completely unknown, this is the type of performance that should get him cast in much bigger roles, for he is outstanding. Completely believable as both the silent, disturbed homeless vagrant of the opening scenes and the more reluctant and resourceful fighter later in the film, he dominates every frame with his terrified stare and hunched frame. It’s a performance unlikely to win any awards, but it deserves to win many. Kudos, also, to director Saulnier, who in only his second feature crafts more tension and drama, as well as controlled frenzy, than most directors could do with millions of dollars (the film’s small budget was mostly raised through kickstarter).
Unusual, hypnotic and filled to the brim with tension and drama, Blue Ruin is one of the most outstanding thrillers of the year. Making use of its bright, sunny locations and realistic, hands-on violence, Jeremy Saulnier’s wordless visuals are some of the finest you’ll see this year, whilst Macon Blair fills every silence with his icy glare and stunning acting.
By Harry Ford