“Maybe that’s what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in f___ing Bruges.”
Have you ever been on vacation and spent the whole time hating the city you’re in? Maybe you’ve been travelling with a companion who won’t shut up and let you appreciate the beauty and culture surrounding you? Or perhaps you’ve botched a hit for your psychotic boss and had to hide out in a small, seemingly irrelevant old European city?
I’m going to go ahead and guess that most people can not sympathize with that last scenario, which is a good thing because you can experience it first hand when you check out Martin McDonagh’s 2008 film, In Bruges. McDonagh shows off both his directing and writing skills in this hilarious and satirical black comedy. Two hitmen, Ray (Colin Ferrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) find themselves hiding in the Belgian town of Bruges after Ray killed the wrong person (to put it lightly). Their boss Harry, played by the completely insane Ralph Fiennes, isn’t exactly overjoyed with the screw up and tasks Ken with the ‘disposing of’ Ray. Ken is now struck with the dilemma of carrying out his boss’s orders and murdering his partner who he has developed a sort of mentor-mentee relationship with, or refusing the orders and risk facing Harry’s wrath. What follows is what I have long felt is one of the best combinations of comedy and genuine drama that I have ever witnessed in a film.
Ferrell’s performance as Ray is perfectly unhinged. He struggles deeply with the guilt of the collateral damage from the botched assassination attempt, taking out his frustrations on the city of Bruges for what he sees as its lack of substance. It is only when he meets the beautiful actress Chloe, (Clemence Poesy) that he believes that he might have a reason to continue on and that maybe Bruges isn’t so bad after all. Gleeson is equally good as a man appreciative of the history and tradition of Bruges, as well as a father figure for Ray who often acts like a spoiled child unappreciative of the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place. The dynamic between the two is perfectly developed and wonderfully executed. Truly one of the best examples of the “buddy film” that I can think of.
The scenery of Bruges is a cinematographer’s dream. The wonderful old architecture, canals, and open plaza settings allow for beautiful shots. Eigil Bryld takes full advantage of the film’s setting providing fanastic images, particularly during the film’s final scene that I will not spoil other than to say, watch for the beauty in control that Bryld exhibits.
In closing, watch this film. I personally love a film that calls direct attention to the setting and uses it to its fullest advantage both thematically and visually. For that, it doesn’t get better than In Bruges.
It should be mentioned (because I am a huge fan) that Martin’s brother John Michael McDonagh is also a highly skilled writer and director and is absolutely worth a search on IMDB. He will certainly show up on this blog in the near future, but in the meantime if you were to check out some of his films you would be doing yourself a massive favour.
Violence with a Story
In Bruges Trailer:
While this trailer does not exactly catch the true spirit of the film (a little too “action movie” for what you’re actually going to get) it should definitely whet your appetite.