This article was originally published in FilmInk magazine
Blue Ruin is rooted in the moral quagmire of revenge, redemption and family legacy. And what a quagmire it is. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier has stripped the form down completely, not only creating incredible tension, but also constructing the film as a mirror to its main man, Dwight (Macon Blair). He’s an enigma - first introduced as a bearded transient, scavenging meals from theme park waste bins and living out of the back of his rundown car. His motives are hinged on the release of a prisoner, whose crime has consumed Dwight’s life entirely. That’s about as detailed as the back story gets. Saulnier drip-feeds snippets of his protagonist’s past throughout, but that’s not where the real meat of his story lies. The sidestepping of Dwight's motives keeps the audience at arm's length in terms of its morality, rendering the violence inscrutable. Revenge movies often go in the other direction completely - pitting a broken protagonist against a malevolent antagonist, and making the violence as cathartic as possible. Blue Ruin, though abundant in similar violence, doesn't direct you at all. It's morality painted in a bloodied smear of grey, rather than stages of black and white. Saulnier simply drags you through the moment to moment tension of Dwight’s vendetta with excruciating detail, without any emphasis as to why it's consumed Dwight entirely. And to his credit, there is an underlying sense of intimacy to this treatment - even when the film is hemorrhaging an often overwhelming volume of tension. When not sourcing guns or performing self surgery, Dwight takes the time to flip through old photo albums and yearbooks, providing texture to the handful of strangely hilarious characters introduced along the way. Blue Ruin gets you up close and personal with a broken, stoic murderer, and it's frequently more of an intimate experience than you may like.