Friday, September 5, 2014

Blue Ruin (2013) : Just Take My Word For It, See This Film.

Blue Ruin is one of those films that speaks volumes without saying a word.  I had heard about this movie through word of mouth only.  I don't think it had a huge marketing campaign.  I haven't heard any of the lead actors' names before.  Its various posters were nondescript and didn't really tell you a lot.  I knew it was "some kind of thriller" but read somewhere that it was better if you knew nothing about it going in. 
These are the kinds of films I want to watch - ones I seek out because I don't know a damn thing about them then one day they just pop up on my radar.

I would have to admit it's one of the better films I've seen all year, and it will be tough to beat.

Nothing in the first few minutes of the film screams "WATCH ME!", but perhaps that is for the best.  We are shown a disheveled, unkempt, drifter-type wandering about the beach, squatting in homes when people are away or at work, digging through dumpsters for food, living out of his car and basically looking like the first five minutes of a Criminal Minds episode in which you know something bad is going to happen to this bum.  But on closer inspection, Dwight (Macon Blair) appears lost. His eyes have a sense of personal wreckage in them. Something unspeakable has happened to this man to plunge him into this life of vagrancy. There is such a vibe of utter defeat coming from Dwight, you know he has been emotionally destroyed.  But why? And how?
Macon Blair
Macon Blairappears lost, somehow.  Not in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense.  His eyes show a sense of personal wreckage. Something unspeakable has already happened to Dwight to plunge him into this life of vagrancy. 

When the town cop knocks on his car door one morning and escorts him to the station, we soon realize she is not bringing him downtown to arrest him.  She has brought him in so someone could be with him when he gets the news.  She hands him a newspaper and by the look in Dwight's eyes you know the shit has just hit the fan.  Dwight has just been informed that the man who murdered his parents is being released from prison.

And because we have realized at this point that this is going to be a revenge film, we become anxious if not eager to see Dwight rectify this situation in whichever way he deems appropriate.  But what can a man of little means accomplish?  Well, he attempts to steal a gun without success and ends up procuring a knife. He then waits....outside the prison gates, watching as Wade Cleland walks out of jail and into his family's waiting arms.  Dwight follows them to deadbeat bar and soon makes his way inside, finding Wade in the restroom.  The two struggle but Dwight is able to stab Wade in the neck and then the temple, effectively killing the murderer and leaving one hell of a mess.

Unfortunately in the heat of the moment, Dwight runs out but forgets his car keys inside the bar. Forced to steal the Cleland family's car (which is a limo for whatever reason).  He heads for his estranged sister's house but meets her in the driveway.  The two are soon sharing lunch and Dwight breaks down, admitting he has killed Wade.  Turns out his sister ends up quite happy that the man who killed her parents is dead, which only brings Dwight to the realization that the Cleland's haven't went to the police. She didn't know.  It's not on the news. No one is aware. Meaning they have decided on retribution on their own terms.  He urgently orders his sister and her family out of town, shaves off his scraggly beard, cleans up, and looks like a sixth-grade teacher when all is said and done.  He looks up an old high school pal who obviously has access to a whole pile of guns, and settles in for the long haul, awaiting the Cleland's attempt at revenge.

To call what happens from here a cat and mouse chase would be downplaying the fierce, tension-filled drama that unfolds at a steady pace. There is absolutely nothing unnecessary or gratuitous here.  Everything that is done, is done for a reason that is utterly cohesive with the plot. When watching it, you feel like (as my husband so correctly stated) "this shit could really happen".  It feels real.  It feels like the nightly news. Dumb mistakes are made on both ends by both parties. People forget their keys.  People do stupid things without thinking first. The violence is hard-core at times but completely legit.  Yes, that is what it looks like when you blow part of someone's head off.  Yes, most of the time things are not resolved without violence.  Life is not tied up in a pretty little bow. 

Seeing just how completely the past tragedy in Dwight's life has made him fall into his own ruin is at heart, the most compelling theme in this excellent film. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier knows just how far to pull the emotional strings here, so that we almost feel a sense of pride in Dwight's choices.  Murder should never be the answer, of course, but when we are forced between the proverbial rock and a hard place, sometimes you just have to actually throw the rock.  Dwight struggles with his choices, and we struggle along with him, all the while hoping things will work out for him in the end.   Revenge is never pretty stuff, and the stark reality of actually killing someone and living with the consequences are never more blatantly clear than within this first-class character study of regret and vengeance.

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