TIFF 2013: Jeremy Saulnier's 'Blue Ruin' is a Damn Fine Revenge Film
by Alex Billington
September 16, 2013
Revenge is a… we all already know that old Klingon proverb. So how about something a bit different? How about revenge with a tinge of blue and some blood splattered in there, too? One of the films I caught early at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival was one I originally missed at Cannes, a small revenge feature titled Blue Ruin from director Jeremy Saulnier. It's a bit of a slow burn take on one man's desire to exact revenge on the people who destroyed his family, but it never drags at any point. As the buzz claims, it's actually one of the best revenge films this year, and a good one to discover for yourself if you love bloody revenge stories.
Saulnier's Blue Ruin stars up-and-coming actor Macon Blair (seen mostly in bit roles before this film) as Dwight, now living out of his car as a quiet outsider with a shaggy beard. We follow as he stumbles his way around town, eventually learning the story about what happened to his parents and that the one responsible is about to get out of jail. Without caring about his actions, he goes after the man and his accomplices, and things get rather intense rather quick as we watch the raw brutality of one peaceful man driven to extremes by revenge. The story unfolds as we follow his actions and see the repercussions, leading to a dark ending.
What works so damn well in Blue Ruin is the storytelling, the impressive script told in a refreshing way. While there is certainly some sleek style to this film, Blue Ruin isn't like a Tarantino revenge film with blood squirting everywhere and heads rolling down the street left and right. Instead, it's a much more realistic character-driven story about the mindset and mindless actions of one man. It's about coming to understand him and why he's doing what he's doing without getting ahead of the character's decisions. The direction is refined and carefully planned, adding extensively to the experience of watching this revenge plot unfold. The process of telling the story is as important as watching what happens and Saulnier definitely knows that.
There's only so much I can say about Blue Ruin because it's just a damn fine revenge film and I don't want to say too much about the plot. Macon Blair, and the rest of the cast of unknowns, do an excellent job of embodying the various vile and fascinating characters found within. Jeremy Saulnier does an even better job directing, giving us just enough to understand each of the characters without getting ahead of any of them or allowing us to lose interest. Revenge is a plot element encounter often in many films every single year, but I really do believe this is one of the best damn revenge films of 2013 that will hopefully break out of the festival circuit and be discovered by audiences. Give it a look when it comes around, you won't be let down.
Alex's TIFF 2013 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing