From time to time, watching an un-American movie can be a rewarding thing. Take Blue ruin for example. Here’s a movie with a very modest budget without any big celebrity-names. A movie that has all the features of a European production. And yet, this movie is as American as a trigger-happy cowboy in a Western. Which is not to say the US is still the undisputed champion of the worldwide film industry.
If a movie is bad, yours truly is the first in line to chop it to pieces, and justifiably so! But whilst Hollywood has created some of the worst things imaginable, it’s also the same machine responsible for the best entertainment in movie-making history. Super-cool action movies that will make you drool all over your popcorn bag like The Rock or Speed. Or intriguing dramatic works of art like Trust and Zero dark thirty. It might be a little hard to hear for us Belgians, but for now America is still miles ahead in terms of making movies. Proof of concept: Blue ruin.
Blue ruin tells the seemingly ordinary story of a drifter who finds out that the person responsible for killing his parents is released from prison. Determined to set things right in the name of justice, he seeks to kill the man, even if it’s the last thing he’ll ever do. What starts as a mental picture soon becomes a personal vendetta of unstoppable proportions … is anyone still safe?
Director is the pretty unknown Jeremy Saulnier. The man is obviously a devotee of the Coen-brothers, not in the least because he openly admitted his movie might contain elements of Blood simple and No country for old men. And the resemblances are apparent. In the same style of the brothers, Blue ruin is also a movie with a very personal character and a minimum of dialogues. The first 10 minutes, not a single word is spoken – and though you might think the slow tempo is distracting – the opposite is true. The stunning cinematography takes its sweet time to tell the tale in a very distinct manner.
Everyday objects suddenly become a thing of beauty. The day-to-day scenery of a rusty car, a dirty man covered in blood, an old house in the woods. And in the midst of it all, a dirty old man who has nothing left to live for. All these elements are gracefully painted onto the silver screen as if it were a classic painting. It’s enough to silence even the most crude loudmouth …
Like any solid movie with a great casting, it helps the movie a lot that the main actor is also solid in his performance. But better yet is when the actor is quite the unfamiliar face. Not some glossy Hollywood-actor – even if worthy of winning an Oscar – like Tom Hanks or Brad Pitt, but with gents like that you simply couldn’t make the same movie.
In other words, the anonymity of Macon Blair does most of the magic here. It makes us care for the character from the first frame and we believe that the man is actually a bum, a mysterious outsider. We experience everything the character encounters, whether it’s good or bad. And the entire scenario keeps us on the edge of our seats whenever we face a dangerous situation.
More than anything, Blue ruin is a first-class drama with some small thriller tendencies …
But nothing lasts forever and near the end, the movie takes a little dive. It never becomes boring, don’t worry, the story is far too efficient for that and the acting is way too strong! But the use of ‘silent’ scenes where the main character does his thing without uttering a single word is something we’ve seen before. And there’s no need to repeat the same pattern.
As a result, the first half hour of the movie is very satisfying. But the last half hour is not, it’s a little repetitive at times and it can make you crave for the end.
Speaking of which, the movie has a nerve-racking finale which’ll wrap things up in beauty!
(although, beauty may not be the right word)
Last but not least, here’s a fun, little fact for you! In the movie Devin Ratray plays a small but significant role. Who is he? Well, he’s a former school buddy who helps out our tormented antihero. It’s a gratifying performance. Wait, what? You don’t recognize him? He once played the role of Buzz, the obnoxious brother in Home alone en Home alone 2.
did you know?
Blue ruin means “tragedy”.
Give it to me straight:
Movies like Blue ruin are of great importance to America. It proves the USA is still capable of telling stories that connect with a global audience without the use of dangerous monsters or eye-pleasing explosions. There are no big celebrities in this movie and it’s precisely this anonymity that becomes the main drive. It’s what makes the movie original in its display.
Blue ruin is what is known in technical terms a ‘naked’ movie. It hides virtually nothing at all! Everything is projected onto the screen exactly like it is in real life. The violence, the sadness of the main character, the painful silences before the storm breaks out, and such more.
It’s an intellectual thriller that asks the right questions. It’s a drama that keeps the window at a crack, so people who watch the movie can contemplate about what might happen next. It’s a thinking man’s movie, one made to offer the chance to reflect at what transpires before your eyes.
Some scenes are so beautifully crafted that it’ll remind you of the old Alfred Hitchcock-classics … it’s made with such a stillness that you won’t easily forget this small yet wonderful gem of an American movie …