There are a couple of disappointing shots towards the beginning. There is also a moment, roughly by the midpoint of the running time, when the movie loses a bit of steam. That is it. That is all the bad things I can say about Blue Ruin. Even then, that middle-slump is quickly overcome with the movie’s thrilling final act, and those shots I mentioned are only disappointing because they look like typical “independent movie” framing in a film that shows an outstanding level of original personality. Blue Ruin is the second film by cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier. Just last week, the release of Wally Pfister’s Transcendence was perpetuating the assumption that directors of photography don’t make good directors, and now, one of the most assured, confident, and exciting films of the year is directed by a DP.
Macon Blair stars as Dwight, whom we meet as a homeless man, living in a rusting blue car by the beach, and searching trashcans for food. Very early in the movie, Dwight is visited by a police officer that tells him a certain man is being released from prison. These news send Dwight in a long quest for revenge, that like most movies about the subject, ends in tragedy and lots of bloodshed. Blue Ruin’s might not be the most original of premises, but Saulnier proves to be a reliable screenwriter, making the story develop at the perfect speed, and taking it to the most fascinating and surprising places without making it feel like he is stuffing his movie with pointless twists designed to shock the audience.
And like I said above, he proves to be an even more reliable director. I don’t to spoil the experience of watching the movie for the first time by going too much into its plot, but suffice to say that Blue Ruin features some of the most thrilling sequences of the year, including one involving Dwight and a man in the trunk of a car, and especially one where Dwight tries to fight off home invaders in what feels like an R-rated version of Home Alone.
You can tell Saulnier’s background by the way he focuses on the visual to tell the story (A lot of the movie unfolds in silence). This man knows how to use a camera. He knows how to frame a widescreen shot in order to get the most information out of it whether the scene takes place in a dark interior, or in the middle of an open landscape. Blue Ruin looks and feels like a postmodern take on the southern noir (you can feel the heat, the sweat, the grimy danger), but also like its own thing. It doesn’t necessarily want to look for references and inspiration in other works, it is, above all, interested in doing whatever works for this particular story. If there is a word to describe this movie, is effective. Or assured. Either way, they’re both fantastic qualities for a small independent movie to have.
Grade: 8 out of 10 (maybe 9? Let’s see if time makes it grow on me even more…)