Dwight (Macon Blair) is a man who has seen better days; with little to his name, he lives in his ancient car, and keeps himself to himself. This all changes when a man is released from prison, and Dwight finds himself on a collision course with a dangerous and gun loving family.
Blue Ruin is director Jeremy Saulnier’s first film since 2007’s Murder Party, which also starred Macon Blair. As well as writing and directing, Saulnier worked as cinematographer on Blue Ruin, creating a unified and engaging film.
Macon Blair holds steady at the centre of the film, it is obvious that the crime that the former jailbird committed had a devastating effect on Dwight, and it is also obvious that Dwight has spent many a year thinking about the revenge he takes. Blair is quiet but fierce in the role of Dwight, and even though one of his first acts his a violent one, it is hard not to root for the devastated outsider. The rest of the cast is made up of Devi Ratray as Ben, Amy Hargreaves as Sam and Kevin Kolack as Teddy, but make no mistake, this is Blair’s story.
Saulnier’s story is one of revenge, revenge and more revenge. Dwight kills as an act of revenge, and then holes up in Sam’s house to wait for the retaliation that he knows must come. Saulnier’s script is light on dialogue, but his triad of work as director and cinematographer means that an atmosphere of tension runs through the entire film, and there are more pauses than words spoken. Saulnier has made Dwight a relatable character – although we know little about him – and makes sure that the audience is always on the underdog’s side. As well as this, Saulnier has made Dwight a man who abhors violence, but knows it is the only language that his enemy understands, thus making him resort to actions that will be understood.
The cinematography of the film, as you may expect from the title, focuses on the colour blue; a rather nice juxtaposition to the action on screen, as blue is traditionally believed to be a calming and tranquil colour. As well as this, the cinematography allows the tension and ambiguity of scenes to build, and shows off the Virginia countryside at it’s most unkempt, and most beautiful.
Blue Ruin is a tense, thrilling and engaging revenge movie. Blood may fly – and some of the scenes are incredibly graphic – but this is not a film about gore, it is a study of the nature of revenge, and what is lost when balance can only be achieved by death. Macon Blair and Jeremy Saulnier make a formidable team, and the strength of the film comes from Blair’s performance, and Saulnier’s careful attention to detail. Blue Ruin may feel slow at times, but it is both rewarding and utterly engaging.