Writer and director, Jeremy Saulnier (Murder Party), has crafted a film about revenge, about family, and about the deepest human desire to protect what it ours, with Blue Ruin. A film that is dark, raw and violent to its end, and one that sheds a spotlight upon a lead performance which is realistic, angry and borderline schizophrenic. I went in to this film with little expectation, and little knowledge of what I was going into, and left with an exhilarated feeling that I had witnessed one of the best independent films of the year.
Dwight (Macon Blair), a bedraggled social outcast is sleeping in his car when he gets told by a police officer that someone is being released from jail, and from his reaction to the news it is easy for us, the viewer, to see that Dwight is anything but happy about this information. Angry and obviously distressed by the intel he has just been made privy to, he travels to his childhood home, where his sister and her children reside, where he intends to carry out an act of vengeance upon the person who has been released. We find out why Dwight is so bothered by the news, and we see the people who have been effected by the situation that has led to Dwight going back home.
I won’t go into the in’s and the outs of the film, the who’s of the where’s. It would do a disservice to the film, and you, the reader, for me to tell you more about what Dwight, our protagonist, does with his knowledge that someone he isn’t happy about has been released from prison. I also don’t feel like there is much more to say without giving you answers that are much more rewarding if you watch them unfold naturally as the film progresses. It’s a slow burning thriller, psychological and pitch black, with a tone reminiscent of gritty and unrelenting films like Taxi Driver or No Country for Old Men, with tight and fulfilling performances across the board, especially from Blair, as Dwight, who delivers a spectacular portrayal of madness, obsession, fear and loyalty. Stripping back the bells and whistles, we are given a naked and clear look at life, life in the hands of someone who isn’t having the easiest run of things. Blair (Hellbenders, Murder Party) is an actor I was unfamiliar with, but after seeing this film I would hope that the offers come rolling in for him, he did a brilliant job here. Saulnier has done a masterful thing with Blue Ruin, his eye for allowing the wretched reality of repugnant situations come out in a convincing way brought a real sense of dirty beauty to the film, taking it a step above thrillers that feel too plastic, too controlled.
Last year I was taken aback by the Denis Villeneuve’s film, Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. This year, Blue Ruin is the standout in the genre so far, caustic, nerve shattering and as intense as they come, I was more than impressed by it. If each year is gifted with films of this quality then I can rest happy.
If you like your thrillers to be subtle in the way the story unfolds, but ferocious when it needs to be, with a dirty, bloody and intense fight for survival that feels chaotic and messy in the best possible way, then this surely will be your kind of film. While it might be predictable on occasion, and the slow buring style may not appeal to everyone, it is still one I would urge you not to pass up. Blair and Saulnier have proven to be a partnership to be reckoned with, and I look forward to their next piece of work.