Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Jordan Prentice
Plot: Two hitmen are sent to Bruges to await their next orders, unaware that when the call finally comes through, it will challenge their friendship.
In Bruges is the kind of film that will split people right down the middle, but that is part of the charm. If you come away from this film, taking something away from it, it makes that film much more special to the viewer. This is your little slice of cinema.
In Bruges’ strongest weapon is its dialogue. McDonagh coming from a theatre background only needs a few impressive set-pieces and a handful of talented actors, in order to kick off his script. The story is simple, basically a modern telling of the ‘Dumb Waiter’ the Harold Pinter play that I enjoyed but always felt needed one final act to truly impress. We get two unlikeable yet strangely appealing characters and what follows is essentially how the Dumb Waiter pans out. However, it is in the script where In Bruges excels, taking this story and adding depth. Colin Farrell’s Ray has a shocking backstory which makes his brattish character suddenly vulnerable and sympathetic. The quotes pouring from these characters makes them impossible to dislike, taking all the best qualities of the British gangster movie, while not over-indulging as the genre is oft to do. Amusing monologues deviate from the plot, yet somehow improve it. We are not afraid to wander from the point, because McDonagh always gets to it in his own time. Watching In Bruges really does feel like entering McDonagh’s world and while it is strange and unsettling, we are in his capable hands throughout the entire experience. I left this movie truly impressed with what the director and screenwriter had done with this simple, yet charming movie.
The second thing to compliment here are the three lead actors. Colin Farrell is in his element here. Farrell has never fared too well in the modern blockbuster, always coming off as routine and passive. It is in these little independent movies where he comes alive as an actor. Farrell has this quirkiness that In Bruges totally embraces. It will be impossible to imagine any other actor taking on the lead role here. Farrell has amazing eyes that his performance always stems from. He can go from terrified to bad-ass to romantically vulnerable, all in a single heart-beat. In Bruges could be one of his finest performances. Brendan Gleeson is the star of the show though. Back when this was first released, you might wonder what the massive star of Braveheart and Gangs of New York is doing in a small movie like this, but since In Bruges, this has become Gleeson’s typical type of movie. It is easy to see the attraction. Ken is a great character, formidable yet gentle; nothing you would expect from a hitman character. As the movie rattles on, becoming more and more impossible to predict, Gleeson becomes the rock of the movie, keeping everything anchored. And then there is Ralph Fiennes. I don’t even want to spoil his performance for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but if you are a fan of Fiennes, this movie is a must-see. His character is phenomenal.
In Bruges is the kind of film that shouldn’t impress anyone. It is far too talky with scenes of dialogue that stretch out to Tarantino proportions. It has a few set-pieces and the action in the finale feels routine. However, everything that happens keeps you hooked. The dialogue is hilarious, making In Bruges, despite the murder and dark tones, first and foremost a comedy. You will find yourself laughing harder than you have in quite a while if you are willing to meet McDonagh halfway. And the action might be smaller than gangster movie fans want, yet the way the story and battle unfolds will be more than enough to keep you invested.
Final Verdict: McDonagh crafts a fantastic script, bursting with quips, shocks and great moments. Sometimes a tough watch, but ultimately rewarding.