Blue Ruin - 2013
Director(s): Jeremy Saulnier
Writer(s): Jeremy Saulnier
Cinematography by: Jeremy Saulnier
Editor(s): Julia Bloch
Cast: Macon Blair, Kevin Kolack, Stacy Rock, Eve Plumb, Devin Ratray and Amy Hargreaves
I rarely go into a movie or a TV-show blind (I like to look up the cast and crew to get a sense of what to expect). However, last week I was finally catching up on the third season of True Detective and perked up with excitement when I saw Jeremy Saulnier's name pop up as the director of the episode. Many may know him for his ultra-violent and tense-filled thriller Green Room or his recent Netflix film Hold the Dark, but I fell in love with his style when I randomly stumbled upon 2013's Blue Ruin. So, how about we talk about this truly hidden gem.
The story follows Dwight (Blair), a man that from the outside looking in seems to be down on his luck as he is living in his car and by collecting what he can from the streets. When he learns that the man who killed his father was set free from jail - he enacts his revenge that does not go according to plan. The brilliance of Saulnier's script and the advantage of him being the director is how little to no dialogue there is in the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film, yet we learn almost everything we need to know about our lead. It plays out like a silent film depending on the visuals and avoiding exposition dumps any other movie would've utilized as a clutch. Another aspect of why I love this film so much is how human and flawed our lead is - that his skills and mental acuity are not elevated simply because he is on a path of revenge. He fails on multiple occasions and is taken advantage by the "bad guys," making his journey relatable and realistic. This realism makes the ending that more bittersweet, as Dwight accepts the destructive nature that comes from obsessing over revenge, and that there is no happy ending.
Just like yesterday's film, Blood Simple, this film encapsulates what its director's style, tone, and sensibilities. Saulnier creates an atmosphere deprived of bells and whistles mainly focusing on Dwight's path and the underlying implication to all his actions. While the action element is not over the top, it is shot in such a visceral way that when it comes, it grabs the audience by the throat and doesn't let go - a perfect example being the final confrontation between the family members of his father's killer. It also helps that Saulnier does not shy away from the gore, utilizing it to snap the audience out of their lulled state produced by the slow, methodical setup shots that build towards many satisfying payouts. Macon Blair is also stellar, and the stoic, broken and determined lead that is using revenge as his only fuel for life, and Devin Ratray (Home Alone) is fantastic in his limited role, and has one of the most, for lack of a better term, badass moments of the entire film as he helps Blair in his quest.
Blue Ruin is a straight forward thriller that does not glamorize one of our most basic human instincts, revenge. Countless of revenge movies feature an unrealistic, a world where a mild manner person becomes an unstoppable force simply because he/she is fueled by revenge. Here we are presented by a sloppy, ugly, and at times stupid plan that culminates in a bittersweet ending that encapsulates what happens when you go down this path - even if you think you are in the right. Saulnier's writing, directing and his cinematography showcase a talent worth following - and his movies since Blue Ruin prove that he is not a one-hit wonder.
Blue Ruin is Why I Love Movies.
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