Monday, 28 April 2014

In Bruges - film review

In Bruges is a 2008 film written and directed by Martin McDonagh that is hard to categorise. Is it a gangster movie or a black comedy or both? I suppose I'd describe it as a dark fairy tale - much is made of the fairy tale quality of the Belgian city in which it's set, and there's a dream-like quality about the final scenes in particular which account for much of its appeal. It's often funny, if usually in a macabre way, and its looping storyline keeps you interested from start to finish.

Two hit men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) are sent packing to Bruges at Christmas time by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) after Farrell messes up his first big job. He's been paid to shoot a priest but also manages to kill a young boy by mistake. This vein of incompetence in the characters' actions runs throughout the narrative. This is a story about violent men who actually are not very bright. But they are also rounded characters, and Farrell and his mentor Gleeson in particular have some redeeming qualities.

Much of the humour comes from the fact that Farrell can't stand Bruges. The only snag is that Bruges is such a lovely place (the film makes this clear, and I know it's the case from having visited it a couple of times) that some of the jokes seem slightly forced. But this is a minor quibble, and the atmosphere of the city, plus the occasional references to another film about a canal city, the wonderful Don't Look Now, make for a visual feast.

Clemence Poesy plays the drug dealing girl who catches Farrell's eye, and the equally appealing Thekla Reuten makes the most of a small part as the pregnant co-owner of the hotel where the hit men are staying, waiting for instructions from Harry. When the instructions come, a sequence of very unfortunate events I really did enjoy this film. It's very well acted, with good background music and great photography. It deserves its high reputation.


J F Norris said...

By the end of this movie my opinion of Colin Farrel as an actor had completley changed fo rthe better. The climax to me was rather shocking and the movie;s intent changes completely veering away from a black humor comedy. I think it's intended to be a story of redemption and forgiveness. It was pretty powerful for me.

seana graham said...

I really loved this film when I saw it in the theatre. I think what raised it above the average for me most was the way Farrell played the conscience-stricken hitman.

I saw Don't Look Now only recently, so may have to go back to In Bruges again to pick up on the references.

Clothes In Books said...

I visited Bruges a few years back, and they were filming In Bruges at the time. As it's not a huge place, the whole town was agog and you saw the film-makers everywhere. So of course I went to see it when it came out, and I was very very impressed - I thought it was gripping, clever, very funny, and also had a moral compass to match The Godfather (the gold standard of such films in my view). So you could say I'm a fan!

Deb said...

I wasn't as big a fan of the movie as the other commentators. While I thought it was visually very beautiful, I thought the changes in tone were too jarring and asking the viewer to in some way sympathize with a man who kills a child...well, I couldn't make that leap. The big surprise to me was Ralph Fiennes who reminded me of Ben Kingsley's character in "Sexy Beast": single-mindedly violent, but capable of enormous (if misplaced) sentimentality.