After Locke, featuring Tom Hardy talking for an hour and a half, it is understandable to be a little burnt out on dialogue. Luckily this weekend’s other big arthouse release, Blue Ruin, has got the cure for what ails you. The new movie from writer/director/cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier stars Macon Blair as a solitary man, out for revenge against those who stole his life from him before it could ever get started. But the actions that Blair’s Dwight takes will set off a brutal chain of events that cannot end well for anyone.
Saulnier and Blair previously collaborated on the horror comedy Murder Party, released in 2007. Despite being written and directed by Saulnier, that film was released as being made by “The Lab of Madness” a collective Saulnier and Blair have been members of since childhood. Murder Party is an enjoyable film, though it often tries too hard to be fun and funny, at the expense of the story the filmmakers are telling. It is a rare thing to see a director make a great leap in quality and tone, but Blue Ruin is on an entirely different level. There are very, very few moments of levity, but it doesn’t really matter, because instead Saulnier crafts an excellent exercise in tension.
Blue Ruin features two or three pitch-perfect scenes that evoke the same mixture of excitement and terror that the characters must be feeling. An especially impressive piece of this whole is how effective Saulnier is at producing this feeling with very few music cues. So many thrillers are overly reliant on score to create atmosphere; Saulnier makes do mostly with his camera and his actors.
And what a performance from Blair. As the most interesting actor in Murder Party, it was easy to see that Blair has much to contribute to a production, and he does not disappoint in this follow-up. Blair wears a pretty exhausted and somewhat disaffected look on his face throughout the film, and you might be forgiven for chalking this up to sub-par acting, but Blair sells the emotional moments so well that we quickly realize it’s all part of the character. Dwight has been living apart from society for so long, that he almost doesn’t know how to be a person anymore. He says as much in a conversation with his sister. Luckily Blair is capable of conveying Dwight’s thoughts and feelings non-verbally, mostly through the use of his distinctively huge and expressive eyes.
Blue Ruin does not contribute anything new to the revenge-thriller genre, but there is more to the movie than the story. It is a study of a man pushed into unexplored territory, and how that new frontier changes him and those of us watching the film. Another hearty recommendation from me. Two in as many days, I guess I’m losing some of that razor-sharp edge that earned me such fame and notoriety in the early days of this weekend. We have all changed so much since then. Were we ever so young?