True suspense isn’t created by what’s happening before your eyes. It’s created by what’s not happening. It exists in the buildup; when the viewer believes something momentous is seconds away.
Whether it happens or not is irrelevant. It’s the anticipation of it that’s truly suspenseful.
Few movies are able to grasp this. But Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin is one of them. There’s a climactic scene when lead character Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) is in a secluded house he doesn’t belong in, waiting for somebody to turn a corner and find him. Suspense drips from every movement.
The plot of Blue Ruin is hardly groundbreaking. It’s a revenge story of a guy seeking people who once wronged him, while trying to protect his estranged family.
But it’s not spelled out for viewers. There’s no dialogue early in the film that lets us in on what’s happening. There’s no voice over.
Instead, we’re propelled right into the middle of the story, and have to let the events play out to know what’s going on. I’m not trying to give the movie too much credit, but it is a nice departure from what we’ve come to expect, where you know what every movie is about before you even start seeing it.
The first scenes show us Dwight, unshaven and filthy, living out of his car, searching for scraps of food in garbage cans. We don’t what his deal is. But we do know there’s more to him than meets the eye. He soon receives a bit of news that sets us into the action, but we still have to wait a while to figure out exactly what is going on.
Some may have no patience for it. Others — like me — will appreciate the intrigue.
Blue Ruin was released in 2013, but is getting a more widespread release this year. It’s a film of unknowns, from the actors to the director.
The cinematography is what makes the film stand out. Saulnier, who wrote the script, portrays it to us in a very artistic way — instead of seeing everything in the direct center of the screen, we watch the events transpire from different vantage points.
It’s a quick-paced film, one that demands the viewer’s attention. There’s a decent amount of violence, and a few gruesome scenes. But the entire movie feels real.
It all amounts to a worthwhile, indie film that probably won’t collect too much buzz, but certainly deserves a lot of credit.