“…Your father killed him. Killed everybody here.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it: the indie film scene in the United States is better now than it has ever been. With crowdfunding options such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, a man with a good dream and a lot of motivation can put together something truly amazing. Considering the fact that this film’s budget was $420,000, the sheer quality of the A/V aspect is staggering; and when you couple that with the fresh and exciting energy of writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, you’ve got Blue Ruin, the little indie thriller that could.
This story is of a man whose life has been cut to pieces, and scattered to the wind, by an unseen event in his distant past. As the movie progresses, we get little fragments. We first see the main character, Dwight, living out of his car; collecting cans on the beach; dumpster diving; sneaking into homes to bathe himself. Then, he gets some news: “he” is out of prison; a man who did something horrible in Dwight’s past, the burden of which Dwight has been living under for time unknown. With not a word, our hero packs his meager belongings and road-trips to the hometown of the shadowy figure.
Dwight’s life unravels even further when he reaches his destination; his plans for revenge snowball into a bloody and terrible feud, and he accidentally sucks some innocent bystanders into his mess. I won’t go into more specifics about the plot, because it’s best experienced firsthand, but I will say that this is not a generic Hollywood thriller, which means not everything is required to be neatly tied up in a pink bow at the end. The story builds like dark clouds on the horizon getting nearer and nearer, until they finally break; a destructive storm of lightning and violent wind that also brings cleansing rain.
If this material had been in the hands of a less able filmmaker, it could’ve easily turned into a snore-fest. The script is fine, but not groundbreaking; much like Hitchcock’s classic Psycho, the excitement lies elsewhere, in the edge-of-your-seat-suspenseful directing and the creatively simple SFX. Saulnier is great at building tension with his bare-bones camerawork, following in the path of the old masters of suspense, such as Clouzot and Bresson. He employs simple but effective camera techniques, often satisfying himself with a well-composed still-shot, rather than having the camera swerve through the set like a soused hummingbird. I get fed up with shaky-cam pretty quickly, so the camerawork in this film was a breath of fresh air.
Blue Ruin clocks in at 90 minutes, and it uses every second of that time to its advantage, presenting a fine-tuned thriller of both epic and incredibly human proportions. Watch it.
Watch the trailer: