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In Bruges

May 25, 2011

In Bruges is the type of film that reminds viewers of the perks of living in the new millennium. Gone are the days in film where a scene only takes place as a means of moving the narrative along, the new age now consists of arbitrary scenes having a strategic place in a film for mere character development such as a scene featuring two assassins doing cocaine in a hotel room with two hookers and a dwarf discussing a futuristic hypothetical race war. The scene does nothing to move the plot forward nor is it an enlightening moment of foreshadowing, although In Bruges is really good at that; instead the scene happens for the sake of happening, because what else are two men stuck in Bruges supposed to do for fun? And that’s In Bruges in a nutshell; a thrilling and quirky black comedy following hitmen Ken and Ray ordered by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to keep a low profile and await further instructions in Bruges after a botched job. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are a classic “Odd Couple” pairing with the older more pensive Ken finding beauty and peace in the quaintness of Bruges, while the hotheaded and blunt Ray sees the city as nothing more than a “shit hole.”

Writer/director Martin McDonagh cleverly makes In Bruges noteworthy due to his ability to tell a serious and genuinely thrilling story about a group of assassins seeking redemption for their actions, while balancing the drama with dry screwball humor. McDonagh impressively develops his character’s personality and backgrounds enough that their quests for salvation is fulfilled by either the audience’s allegiance to them or merely through the film’s narrative. Ken and Ray are more than heartless assassins, they’re men who see what they do as simply work until their most recent job reminds them of the severity of taking a life. While staying in Bruges both men began to reevaluate their jobs, their own personal beliefs and how their actions will affect their afterlife. Even their ruthless boss Harry is shown to be more than a one-note villain hell bent on revenge, he is given morals, principles, a background and a captivating personality.

All credit isn’t due solely to McDonagh however; each actor is phenomenal in their roles bringing realism and a unique humor to each one. Farrell captures the remorse and pain that surfaces in Ray, reminding viewers that sometimes ones guilt is the greatest punishment. Fiennes is beyond incredible as the foul-mouthed, hot-tempered Harry, a role he gives as much humor to as he does venom, and if Glesson’s performance as the benevolent and gracious Ken doesn’t atleast tug at your heartstring, you obviously don’t have one. Seriously you should go the doctor is you don’t atleast find his “elderlyness” adorable. In one scene Ken stands at a box office counting every coin that he finds in his pocket for its five Euro admission charge but ultimately comes up to 4.90 hoping for the good graces of the attendant. However, the attendant is unphased and reminds Ken that the admission is five Euro causing the two to go back and forth over the .10 cent difference. Ken finally collects his change, reaches in his pocket and gives the attendant a 50 Euro banknote asking him if he’s happy in his work to which the attendant replies dryly, “Very happy.”

McDonagh masterfully allows everyone that Ken and Ray come in contact with in Bruges to be a pivotal and major part in the lives and future. The irony and foreshadowing that McDonagh implements throughout the film is frankly some of the best usage of the literary devices I’ve ever seen on film. McDonagh also takes lessons from famed director Woody Allen on how to write a love letter to a city through cinema by making the unknown Belgian city a sight to behold through beautiful shots that seem to capture every aspect of Bruges. In Bruges is a rollercoaster ride and I don’t mean that facetiously for the sake of blowing hot air into a subpar film.

In Bruges is truly an enjoyable cinematic experience, one that is genuinely shocking and left me gasping numerous times throughout at the turn of events, revelations that were exposed, and connections between characters that happened. The downfall of the film, however, is Farrell’s subpar comedic acting, and I stress the word comedic here, and the unnecessary love angle of the film between Ken and a drug peddling production assistant Chloe. Regardless In Bruges is a perfect example of what a “good” film does and is and that’s present viewers with a realistic portrayal of a constructed fantasy world.


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