Monday, May 19, 2014

[Review] Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin is a grizzly revenge thriller, directed by newcomer Jeremy Saulnier (who also is writer and cinematographer). With a stripped down story and minimal dialogue, Blue Ruin has a tense focal point. It's less elaborate and twisty, and more straightforward and "Wow, so that just happened..."

The central character is a bug-eyed, bearded vagrant named Dwight (Macon Blair). He looks similar to how Tom Hanks looked during the later days of Castaway. He finds out that a certain murderer is being released from prison, and Dwight plans to kill the guy. The first act is fairly vague, but then the story is revealed in increments, and ultimately, Dwight gets involved in a continuous family feud of bloody violence and vengeance. Although it isn't as good as FX's new series "Fargo", fans of that series will want to check this one out at some point.

Even though Blue Ruin somewhat subverts a couple of tropes, the film doesn't fully offer up anything remarkably new within this genre either, and it pales in comparison to some of its forebearers. The story has a few mundane low points that are probably meant to act as calms before storms, but sometimes it still feels like it's running on empty.

However... the thing it really has going for it is the cinematography. Blue Ruin is grim, and the director doesn't shy away from close-ups on physically painful moments, but it's also surprising how appealingly exuberant the film is, visually. Every shot has a scrupulously detailed composition, accenting contours and lighting. There are a handful of scenic views of beaches and forest roads (especially near the beginning), and a good portion of the film takes place during sunrise or sunset. At night, the backgrounds glow with carnival lights and fluorescent neon. The shots of clutter and decrepitness appear artful--Dwight's brokedown car, his dilapidated gun that may or may not work. And a deep focus on a shed filled with rusty and pointy garden tools looks like a photo from one of those "I Spy" treasure hunt books where you're supposed to find scattered items. It all had me wondering, how can such a brutal story look so beautiful?


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