Winner of the FIPRESCI prize at 2013 Cannes Film Festival & brought to life through a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, Blue Ruin is an insanely thrilling & suspenseful revenge drama that effortlessly sustains its incredibly tense atmosphere to succeed as one of the finest films of the year while also serving as a crowdfunding accomplishment by rewarding the faith of everyone who donated their bit to advance the project towards its completion. Nicely envisioned, elegantly pitched, expertly crafted, masterly executed & brilliantly performed, the best thing about this independent feature is the level of confidence it resonates through its much relaxed pacing which thrives on the foreboding tension that’s always present throughout its runtime & is further amplified by those anxious moments between each encounter.
Blue Ruin tells the story of Dwight Evans; a mysterious vagabond who spends his days scavenging for leftover food in the dumpsters, collecting whatever discarded supplies he could find & breaking into vacant houses on rare occasions for a hot-tub bath. However the quiet life he’s slowly grown accustomed to soon turns upside down when he finds out that the man convicted for murdering his parents is being released from prison after which he decides to take matter into his own hands by returning to his hometown in order to carry out his retribution. Proving himself to be an amateur assassin, he is able to avenge the death of his parents by killing the recently paroled convict in a brutally quick fashion but on learning that the deceased’s family is planning to seek revenge without police involvement, he does everything he can to save his own estranged sibling.
Written, directed & photographed by Jeremy Saulnier in his breakthrough feature, one of the most admirable things about Blue Ruin remains its assured direction as this new filmmaker on the block presents a very firm grip on every single aspect & unfolds the story with sublime accuracy. There is an air of charged tension that can be deeply felt once the main plot surfaces but where the film succeeds most in taking its suspense to an almost unbearable level are in the moments when we know something terrible is going to happen yet have no choice but to desperately wait for it. The whole picture exhibits a very quiet ambience that wonderfully disguises the vengeful plot within it and is further enhanced by minimal use of dialogues, controlled use of camera, concise editing & an understated background score, all of which work in near-perfect harmony.
Considering that the camera is almost always focused on its main character throughout its 90 minutes of runtime, it was necessary to cast someone in the role of Dwight Evans who could not only do justice to this character but is also capable of carrying the viewers through to the end. And to think that the so-far unnoticed Macon Blair would be up for that job would’ve never convinced anyone but he did turn out to be a perfect cast here & is an absolute revelation in his given role as his rendition of Dwight hits all the right notes from the beginning plus the range of emotions he is able to express with such effortless naturalness further demonstrates his talents as an actor. Also chipping in with strong contribution is Devin Ratray who plays Ben; Dwight’s old high-school friend, while Amy Hargreaves manages to impress too in her brief role of Sam; Dwight’s sister.
On an overall scale, Blue Ruin is an immensely captivating meditation on revenge & its entire futility which presents its relatively violent tale without ever stepping into the excess. It is a remarkable work of simplicity that strips down every single one of its aspects to a bare minimum yet still succeeds in delivering a nail-bitingly tense cinematic experience while also triumphing as one of this year’s most impressive features. Without pretending, without distracting & without experimenting, this revenge thriller manages to make itself work, thanks to the efficient utilisation of its available resources in addition to the painstaking refinement of its plot & characters, but whether this film will work for you or not depends entirely on how well you’re able to connect with its protagonist. To summarise it all in one sentence: Simple, composed & patient yet tragic, grim & violent, Blue Ruin is genre filmmaking at its most elegant that comes strongly recommended.