A taut, violent thriller with an unconventional protagonist as its breakout star.
Occasionally, independent filmmaking produces a truly original story. When writer and director Jeremy Saulnier cast his best friend Macon Blair as the lead actor in Blue Ruin, eyes probably rolled. That fateful decision was a stroke of genius, as Macon Blair totally owns the role of Dwight in this brutal revenge thriller. The tense film is superbly crafted from beginning to end, constructing a believable narrative that slowly unfolds to a final showdown.
Much of the power in Blue Ruin is derived from its air of mystery and simmering plot. The taut script begins its roller coaster ride without much dialogue, in a quiet opening act that explodes at the right time. Quickly introduced without explanation is a nameless man we later learn is Dwight (Macon Blair).
Living out of his car with several months of growth on his beard, Dwight is a vagrant. His parents were murdered years ago and now the man responsible, Wade Cleland, has been released from prison after all these years. Dwight takes matters into his own hands, hoping to enact his own brand of vengeance on Wade Cleland. Thus begins a twisting tale of revenge that eventually ensnares Dwight’s sister and Cleland’s family.
Blue Ruin is a brutal, visceral experience made compelling by the normalcy of its main character. What makes it stand out is the uniqueness of Dwight, a normal guy without the typical profile of an assassin. He is not the unstoppable, cold-blooded killer so often found in these kinds of genre flicks. Broken by the death of his parents, his motivations reveal a complex portrait of a man struggling to come up with answers. Dwight definitely wants revenge but is unsure of himself, especially when he discovers what he thought he knew was wrong.
Macon Blair delivers an astonishing performance in the lead role. It is his mannered performance that really sells Blue Ruin as a powerful thriller, outshining the rest of a decent cast led by supporting players such as Amy Hargreaves and Devin Ratray. Director Jeremy Saulnier has put together an excellent little movie full of surprises.
Blue Ruin looks superb for an independent production, filmed on the Canon C300 camera. The 90-minute main feature has been included on a BD-25 by distributor Starz/Anchor Bay. The AVC video encode averages a satisfactory 21.69 Mbps, capably handling the clean cinematography without introducing compression artifacts. Framed in a pleasing 2.39:1 aspect ratio at 1080p resolution, the widescreen composition is quite smooth and detailed.
The moody thriller has perfect contrast and excellent clarity, marked by solid levels of detail. Lacking the kind of extreme fidelity found in the best demo material, the video remains sharp. Strong black levels reveal decent shadow delineation and depth. Blue Ruin’s color palette is refreshingly neutral coming from the Digital Intermediate, resulting in naturalistic flesh-tones and ripe colors. The color timing does not heavily skew one way like so many other modern thrillers.
You really can’t ask for much more than an unfiltered digital transfer from a well-made production. Blue Ruin lands just shy of demo material but should be considered a solid presentation in Hi-Def.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack makes for engaging audio, filled with the right amount of active sound design for its more explosive moments. The dialogue is delivered in crisp fidelity with a fairly well-designed surround placement, adding the right touch of atmosphere at crucial moments. The music and incidental score are excellently balanced across the soundstage. While this lossless soundtrack lacks a bit of the raw juice found in bigger Hollywood mixes, it provides a suitable partner for the tense narrative.
Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles display in a white font, framed entirely within the 2.39:1 aspect ratio at all moments.
The low-budget Blue Ruin gets a handful of special features and an audio commentary as extras. The commentary is one of the more boring ones, focusing on a lot of inconsequential production tidbits and on-set anecdotes. The featurette is more interesting, showcasing how this movie came about through a series of cast interviews and direct talk from the director.
Feature Commentary With Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier and Actor Macon Blair – The best friends break the film down, though a lot of this discussion is fairly tedious. Long-time friends often have a kind of shorthand when discussing things that often loses context to outsiders. This might be a case of that happening.
No Regrets: The Making of Blue Ruin (18:56 in HD) – An interesting behind-the-scenes featurette with extended discussions by Saulnier and Blair. A couple of other actors and producers appear, but the two friends provide the real meat of this documentary about this film getting made in the first place.
Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary by Saulnier and Blair (04:59 in HD) – Two deleted scenes that would have added a little more texture to Dwight’s character but ultimately got cut.
Camera Test (03:52 in HD) – A short promo intended to help sell this film to producers before the movie was actually made. Heavy on mood and atmosphere, it’s easy to see how it would have been good bait.
Trailers for Snowpiercer (01:53 in HD) and 13 Sins (02:21 in HD) precede the main menu.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.