‘Blue Ruin’ Movie Review – A Simple Revenge Story
Blue Ruin is nothing but a revenge story. While some films get knocked for trying to do too much, sometimes the greatest way to tell a story is to keep it simple. The flip-side is that if that one thing doesn’t work, the film crumbles real fast. In the case of Jeremy Saulnier’s Kickstarter-funded (and 2013 Cannes Film Festival-winning) thriller, Blue Ruin, that one thing is enough to carry the film. It’s tense, exciting, and ultimately rewarding.
Following Dwight (Macon Blair), the protagonist, Saulnier (who wrote, directed, and edited the film) throws the audience right into Dwight’s drifter lifestyle. At the beginning of the movie, he’s essentially a beach bum with aimless ambitions. Of course, we don’t know any of the bearded man’s backstory or why he is reduced down to rummaging through the trash.
Then Dwight is brought in by the police and told a man named Wade Cleland is being released from jail. It doesn’t take an expert to figure out Wade has done something bad to Dwight (and, later we find out, his family). Thinking Wade hasn’t done his due time, Blue Ruin becomes the tale of not only getting revenge, but the string of events and consequences that come about because of Dwight’s actions.
My plot description may have made the film sound a little more complex than it is. In most instances, I’d say a movie needs to be complex. However, it shouldn’t be complex just for complex-sake. In fact, if there are no subplots that work, why put them in the movie? It just makes it a bloated (and ultimately watered-down) film.
Saulnier recognizes this and just lets his protagonist go. He keeps it simple and does the simple things well.
Among the things that work, besides the toned-down feel, is the tensity Saulnier creates. Dwight’s personality makes the film very quiet (don’t expect a lot of talking during the first act), but silence is a thriller’s best friend. The silence captures the audience and doesn’t let them go.
If you break Blue Ruin into three acts, there is a clear divide in the film’s progression. Character-wise, there is a clear change in Dwight from act one to two and finally in three. Using this lens, the movie has a lot more going for it than just pure intensity and adrenaline.
What I’ve described does probably warn some people away from Blue Ruin. And while I’m generally thumbs-up about this movie, I’m definitely not over-the-moon about it. Some will be turned off by the lack of dialogue, while others will be turned off by the violence (especially in the third act). I, however, only can find a problem with the pacing. It does a fairly good job, but there is unnecessary time spent in some parts compared to others.
When I think about what movies I like (or don’t like), generally I keep an eye out for a few things. (Coincidentally, I just published a piece about this subject). Generally, I look for a complex, original movie with some degree of rewatchability. Blue Ruin does have a fundamentally “good” theme and is an original story; however, it isn’t that complex and isn’t a movie I’ll watch again soon (if ever). Does that mean it is a bad movie? I guess not, and that is why, as Blue Ruin points out, it is okay to break the rules.
Blue Ruin played at film festivals before getting a limited release this weekend. You can check local theaters or rent it through Video On Demand.
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