“… the only film that managed to rip my heart out, and make me laugh while doing it.”
“Colin Farrell and Academy Award-nominee Ralph Fiennes star in this edgy, action-packed comedy, filled with thrilling chases, spectacular shoot outs and an explosive ending you won’t want to miss!”. That is a direct quote from the back of the ‘In Bruges’ DVD case, plastered among many still frames of characters in wacky poses against a brightly coloured background. As I was putting the disc back in its rightful spot after watching In Bruges for the second time last night, I realized that I have never before seen a DVD case that misrepresents its film to such a degree. I understand that tag lines and case designs such as these are meant to entice people to watch the film, and believe you me I want as many people as possible to watch In Bruges, but this specific example borders on false advertising.
In Bruges is a film about two hit men, Ray and Ken (played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson respectively), who are ordered to travel to the small Belgium town of Bruges in order to ‘lay low’ for a while. They were sent to Bruges because they had just completed a different job for their employer, and they needed to get the hell out of Dodge, so to speak. The problem is that Ray has a conscious and the deed that he has done is now following him around like a dark cloud, and it doesn’t help much that he is stuck in fucking Bruges.
In Bruges is the saddest comedy film I have ever seen. Or maybe it is the funniest drama film I have ever seen. Either way, In Bruges is leaps and bounds above any and all others in its league. Every once in a while you find a movie that is the embodiment of its respective genre, and In Bruges is definitely that for dark comedies. In Bruges is the only film that managed to rip my heart out, and make me laugh while doing it. Part of what makes In Bruges so special is the fact that it is first and foremost a drama. The story is a very tragic, as are the characters. Sure there are jokes sprinkled throughout the film, absolutely hilarious jokes at that, but In Bruges is not afraid to let you wallow in your own emotions either. The way that these feelings are conveyed to the audience are absolutely masterfully done as well.
The film starts off and you can hear this absolutely stunning piano arrangement. This will serve as the score for the rest of the film, providing a lovely backing track for the emotional journey we are about to go on. Of course the score allows itself to change every once in a while, becoming a booming orchestral arrangement when the tension grows, or even taking a back seat all together in favour of a lovely Irish folk song that amplified all of your emotions and brought them to the forefront of your mind. The setting for In Bruges is also brilliant. Ray constantly complains about how dull Bruges is, and he is completely right. Bruges is a historic town in Belgium, so all of the streets are cobblestone and the buildings stand as great stone giants making you feel like you are trapped in a maze. The colours are drab, mainly consisting of brown and grey, and the streetlights are a dull yellow. Bruges is the type of place that oozes emotion, but not necessarily good emotions. This makes it an absolutely brilliant setting for one of the saddest films I have ever seen.
In Bruges is on an entirely different level in terms of writing. I already mentioned that the film is sad, but I want to elaborate on that parts of the film that made me laugh. Ray and Ken are two very real characters. They have a good relationship with one another, but it is mainly a work relationship. Both characters are very complex, but we only get to reveal these complexities one layer at time. Ray is the character from whom the jokes mainly come. Ray is type of guy who is very simple (not like stupid, just that he prefers not to make things complicated), and he speaks his mind. This allows for us to see Ray say everything that we usually think on a daily basis; basically, he has no filter in between his brain and his mouth. Of course this is a double-edged sword because of those aforementioned feelings that Ray has. Ray is a deeply damaged character, which only makes him more relatable; the fact that he is funny is really a by-product of that. I felt that I should briefly mention the camerawork in the film as well. A lot of the shots are what I would all ‘effective’, in that they accomplish what they set out to without being too fancy. That being said, every once in a while there is a shot in ‘In Bruges’ that is absolutely stunning. These range from tracking shots, to slow pans, to lovely focus pulls, but whatever it is it left me stunned on multiple occasions.
Of course the characters can be written very well, and the film can be well shot, but a lot of the weight falls on the actors’ shoulders to deliver a believable performance. Well luckily for In Bruges, every actor did just that. Of course you have wonderful performances for Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes (and really every other character), but the real brilliance comes with Colin Farrell’s performance as Ray. As I’ve already mentioned, Ray is a very broken character and Colin Farrell nails that aspect of him. The emotional outbursts, the quick-witted comebacks, the hilarious inflection in his voice, everything is brilliantly done. The scene that really sold me on his performance was the scene in the park. I’m not going to spoil it, but I’ll just say that it was an amazing display of what Colin Farrell brought to the role of Ray.
Overall In Bruges is the epitome of a dark comedy. It is beautifully acted, shot, written, and scored, so if you haven’t seen it by now do yourself a favour and make it a priority.
I give In Bruges an A