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Blue Ruin

    Christian Bates-Hardy
    Pod Person

  • Blue Ruin

    Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Released on: July 22, 2014
    Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves
    Year: 2013
    Purchase from Amazon

    The Movie

    Writer/Director/Cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier first endeared himself to horror and cult cinema fans in 2007 when he burst onto the festival scene with his directorial debut, Murder Party. Since then, he's been developing his craft working as a cinematographer on several projects, including feature films and documentaries. Those 6 years spent working on other projects between this and Murder Party seem to have paid off, because Saulnier's attention to detail and craft shine brightly in his excellent sophomore film, Blue Ruin.

    The movie opens with a man (Macon Blair) taking a bath in what turns out to be someone else's home, before escaping to the beach to sit beneath the docks, watch the waves crash against the shore, and collect bottles along the beach. He returns to his car, parked in an open field with a tarp pulled over it, and goes to sleep. A slow camera pan shows us that the car is full of bullet holes. The man wakes up at night and goes dumpster diving near Funland, a local amusement park. The next morning a policewoman wakes him and takes him to a police station, where he's told that a man named Wade Cleveland is going to be released from prison. At first, we don't hear the man's name clearly, and we're not told what the relation between the two men is. All we see is the stunned reaction on the character's face at the news, and a brief shot of a newspaper article about a double-murder.

    Blue Ruin begins in such an elegant, simple way, wherein key information is consistently withheld from the viewer. We learn just enough in the opening ten to fifteen minutes through contextual details to pull us into the story and the lonely, angry world of the main character, who we learn is named Dwight. As soon as he leaves the police station, Dwight cashes in his recyclables, buys enough gas to get his car running, and purchases a postcard, but again, we don't see the card long enough to get any details from it other than the name of the addressee. Dwight breaks into a truck parked outside a bar, steals a gun from inside the vehicle, and drives to the prison to wait for Wade Cleveland's release. He watches as Wade's family picks him up from prison, and then follows them to a nearby bar. Dwight hides in the bathroom, and waits for the man to take a piss before stabbing him in the throat and head with a fillet knife. Dwight escapes to his estranged family's home, were we learn that the Wade Cleveland killed his parents in a double-homicide. As soon as he learned Wade was to be released, Dwight started planning his revenge. What he hadn't planned for though, was what would come next.

    Blue Ruin is a slow burning thriller about the consequences of revenge. Though it is violent, this is not an action-packed film about vigilante justice. Blue Ruin is an anti-revenge film. Revenge isn't an end-point in this film, but the continuation of a cycle of violence. Dwight begins the film at rock bottom, and aside from a shave and a change of clothes, he stays there. When he kills Wade Cleveland, he doesn't feel relieved of his anger or his pain, and it's only the start of his troubles. This is compounded by the fact that Dwight isn't a sharpshooting marksman, a skilled assassin, a former Navy Seal or an ex-cop. He's just an ordinary guy. He has no special training, no clue how to properly aim and shoot a gun, and no plan for what happens after he gets his revenge. And without fail, he does everything wrong. He's just a guy who lost his family and didn't know what to do next. He reacts to everything in the film in a way that a normal person might, given the circumstances, and that is what makes him such a compelling character.

    The cast of Blue Ruin are great across the board, but Macon Blair delivers the clear standout performance of the film. Though he's emotionally withdrawn, mumble-mouthed, and completely silent for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, Blair gives his performance an understated emotional charge that is just boiling beneath the surface. When that charge explodes, it's either in moments of abject terror or furious anger coming from his character. Credit also has to go to Saulnier's cinematography, as he keeps the camera focused on Blair's face through much of the film, allowing Blair to express his character through facial reactions more than words. The other performance worthy of note is Devin Ratray (Home Alone, Home Alone 2), who plays Dwight's best friend.

    Blue Ruin glides through its 90-minute running time, buoyed by its deliberate sense of pacing and carefully composed cinematography, but it's the desperate, harried performance of Macon Blair as the pathetic anti-hero Dwight that humanizes his character's brutal actions and makes us want to continue following his story, even though we know it's going nowhere good. Blue Ruin is as much a mystery as it is a revenge thriller. The way in which information is delivered means we're constantly forced to wonder not only what is happening, but why. This is one of the best independent films released this year, and it comes highly recommended.


    Blue Ruin arrives on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 with a smoothly detailed and occasionally soft-looking MPEG-4 AVC encode transfer. The film was filmed with digital equipment and as such it does quite good in high definition, especially during daylight sequences where the increased light source allows a lot more environmental detail to come out. Black levels however appear flat and never approaching true black, which is unfortunate especially during one major scene that takes place at night. Color reproduction is very good though, and the film's bold and deep blue color scheme really looks good in 1080p. Overall the video presentation is good, and while it could be slightly improved upon, the level of quality is consistent and never distracts from the film.

    The sound quality of the 5.1 DTSHD Master Audio on this Blu-ray is really terrific. Blue Ruin's soundtrack is very minimal and understated, and the film uses sound in a very deliberate and purposeful way, whether it's to give us an insight into Dwight's state of mind or to make us feel the pain of his having to remove an arrow from his leg. When the disc loads up the main menu repeats a reverberating low-end synthesizer pulse from the film score that sounds excellent and really sets the mood of the film before it begins.

    Bonus Features on the Blu-ray include a Feature Commentary with Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair, No Regrets: The Making of Blue Ruin, two Deleted Scenes, and the Camera Test that used to recruit cast, crew and investors before production began on the film. The Camera Test is so well made that it looks like an outtake from the actual film, and it's clear from watching that Saulnier and Blair knew exactly what tone they wanted from the film from the very beginning of the film's development. The two deleted scenes include an extended opening sequence with follows Dwight on a haunted house ride at the Funland amusement park that would've been near the beginning of the film, and a scene in which the Cleveland's discover their stolen limo after Wade's stabbing. The Feature Commentary between Saulnier and Blair is an enjoyable listen, as the two share details about the film's production and come across as both friends as well as collaborators. While they discuss a lot of production details about the film, their friendly banter keeps the commentary from being overly dry and technical.

    The Final Word

    Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Blue Ruin is a great presentation of one of 2013's best indie films. It's as much a mystery as it is a revenge thriller, so try not to read too much about it before watching. Trust me. It's a small-scale story of revenge gone wrong that packs a huge punch to the gut.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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