Cinophile: In Bruges

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Stories about assassins are almost always at least interesting and often turn into movie gold. Comedy is not immune from its dark charms. The Whole 9 Yards, The Boondock Saints, even The Professional – all had an ability to get a chuckle out of a morbid situation. This is a hard crowd to stand out from, but In Bruges still rises to the top.

Two assassins have to skip out of the U.K. for a while after a botched job. Sent to the Belgian city of Bruges, they wait for word from their boss. Taking in the sights of this scenic medieval town, from the start the two assassins’ divergent personalities play off with razor wit. It escalates into a mesmerizing ride, one that won all sorts of critical acclaim and re-established Colin Farrell’s movie career.

But Farrell’s success has overshadowed just how brilliant the rest of this film is. Yes, he fuels a lot of it with his impulsive and tortured hitman Ray. But Brendan Gleeson’s Ken, the other assassin, is a perfect counterweight to the childish Ray. He takes in the sights with an air of confidence and experience, something that comes to play quite strongly later in the film and explains why the two characters are so different. And then there is Harry, Ralph Fiennes’ brilliant gangster boss, easily comparable to Snatch’s Brick Top or Sexy Beast’s Don Logan. His strange code of ethics works as the film’s catalyst more than once.

In Bruges’ brilliance is its constant slight of hand. It’s a film that delivers its jokes on the sly and keeps dropping subtle hints on where things may be going. Yet you never see any of it coming. Ray’s impulsivity is what pushes this forward at first, but his character is almost a diversion to keep the audience from realising the entire movie is shooting from the hip. But this isn’t the kind of movie you can watch with half an eye: the jokes are layered and moments pass in the blink of an eye.

While Ray appears to be the tortured star of the show, in reality all of the main characters have some problem that gnaws at them.Maybe black comedies about assassins work so well because they take the absurd and make them relatable and memorable. In Bruges uses this to great effect, but also knows its stuff. The conversation between Ray and Harry during a gunfight is highly reminiscent of the genre’s gold standard, Grosse Point Blank. It is also intense and at times very violent. Most of all, you actually end up liking all the characters, even antagonists like the meddling ex-boyfriend of Ray’s love interest.

In Bruges is quite simply a masterpiece and if you didn’t like it… let’s just say it is not the movie’s fault.

In one scene Ray, reading a phone message,  remarks that their boss Harry swears a lot. It’s an in-joke - in reality the entire movie has a lot of foul language - The ‘F’ word is used an average of 1.18 times per minute - most from the mouth of Harry, as Ray observes. Another in-joke is where Ken compliments Ray on how he dressed for his date. Ray wears the same outfit for the entire movie.
In one scene Ray, reading a phone message, remarks that their boss Harry swears a lot. It’s an in-joke – in reality the entire movie has a lot of foul language – The ‘F’ word is used an average of 1.18 times per minute – most from the mouth of Harry, as Ray observes. Another in-joke is where Ken compliments Ray on how he dressed for his date. Ray wears the same outfit for the entire movie.
In Bruges is the first feature film by noted playwright Martin McDonagh, who often uses Irish characters in his works. Ironically the original script saw the two main characters as English, but since both Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson are Irish, the characters were changed to suit them. McDonagh chose Bruges after visiting the city and pondering how it would contrast between a culture vulture and a drunk - essentially the two main characters.
In Bruges is the first feature film by noted playwright Martin McDonagh, who often uses Irish characters in his works. Ironically the original script saw the two main characters as English, but since both Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson are Irish, the characters were changed to suit them. McDonagh chose Bruges after visiting the city and pondering how it would contrast between a culture vulture and a drunk – essentially the two main characters.

 

The film’s underlying theme is of purgatory and hell. Farrell’s character is tortured by what happened on his previous job and wrestles with the moral consequences of it. The theme is reinforced by the appearance of a  Hieronymus Bosch painting, where the two main characters even discuss Hell and Purgatory.
The film’s underlying theme is of purgatory and hell. Farrell’s character is tortured by what happened on his previous job and wrestles with the moral consequences of it. The theme is reinforced by the appearance of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, where the two main characters even discuss Hell and Purgatory. The final climactic scene is even a direct homage, filled with characters that hint at the painting.

Best Scene: A fan favourite is certainly Ray explaining to fat tourists why they shouldn’t visit a local tower.

Best Quote: Purgatory’s kind of like the in-betweeny one. You weren’t really shit, but you weren’t all that great either. Like Tottenham.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: April 7, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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