"In Bruges" (2008)
“In Bruges” is such a surprise. When I saw the trailer I thought it looked like the sort of film in the vain of “Smokin Aces”. In other words, the kind of film I do not like despite the awesome Pixies usage in the trailer. It looked like a film that depended on fast cutting to exist.
The film ended up getting fantastic reviews, ended up on some top 10 lists including Richard Roeper’s and garnered 3 Golden Globe nominations. It is the director’s first film; his main work is in playwriting for which he has very much made a name for himself, writing “The Pillowman” which was nominated for Best Play at the Tony’s. His 2006 Short Film Six Shooter won him an Oscar.
“In Bruges” is a film that does not follow a conventional narrative. You do not really know where the pot is going much of the time. The 2 hit men are ordered by their boss to stay in Bruges after a hit goes wrong and Colin Farrell playing Ray accidently kills a child. Bruges represents Purgatory for these two as they meander about the place with Ken (Brendon Gleeson) enjoying himself and Ray being bored out of his mind while still trying to deal with the murder he committed. The film is not quickly cut at all in fact. In has a very average shot length, one actually below average to display the meandering about that the 2 characters do in the film. It is unpredictable; the humor in it is very dark and works very interestingly with the rest of the plot. Its humor weaves in and out without really caring whether or not is fits in with the rest of the film but it actually does very much. There are 3 strong characters by Colin Farrell, Brendon Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes as the antagonist Harry. Each of their relationships with each other is very interesting and again unconventional. There are many standout scenes. There is a beauty to Bruges, a place that I would love to now go. Its unabashedly un-PC dialogue was refreshing not because it was not offensive but because its purpose was to be matter of fact in the way some people talk and not to be unknowingly offensive like so many other movies do. Clemence Poesy looks fantastic and has such a seductive quality about her. She really serves no other purpose other than to just be “the girl” but so many countless other films do this that pointing it out in this one would hardly make it a unique flaw.
Colin Farrell is not someone I am typically a fan of but he gives his best performance out of what I have seen (Phone Booth, Alexander, Minority Report, Intermission) proving that he is an actor for a reason. I am very happy he is nominated for a Globe as is Brendon Gleeson who is fantastic as Ken. Ralph Fiennes is equally great here as Harry. Honesty these are three standout performances as three standout characters that have depth and individuality.
All in all this is a film that took me by surprise. I have it at number 7 for my greatest of the year only behind Man on Wire, Kung Fu Panda, Frost/Nixon, Snow Angels, Milk and Wall-E (I am actually more enthusiastic about In Bruges than Man on Wire on a subjective level though. It stands at number 9 whereas Man on Wire is at number 14). If I saw this again I think it would go higher on my favorite. It seems low but believe me it is very high. I actually have it above many other fills that are Oscar contenders simply because there are so few flaws, it is not driven by its screenplay mechanics, it has different and interesting characters, a weird blend of humor, beautifully photographed in Bruges and was a film that had its own unique feeling to it as it is a film that was simple a different experience than I am used to when I watch movies. It is refreshingly original. And these days that is about the best compliment you can give to a movie.