Monday, August 1, 2011

My DVD pick of the week: In Bruges (2008)

Every so often I'm going to send out a movie selection from the past that I think is brilliant.  I hope you all see it and enjoy it. 

In Bruges is one of my top 20 favorite films from the 2000s - here is what I wrote a year ago:

In Bruges (2008) In a widely over-looked film when it was released we are given a gem of a movie that brilliantly weaves noir-comedy and ultra-serious issues seamlessly. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson complement each other perfectly as hit-men who are heading in different life directions, each thrown together for an indeterminate amount of time in the postcard-picturesque city of Bruges as their employer (Ralph Fiennes) decides how to handle the delicate decision (both professional and moral) that a bundled hit has put them all in. With side-busting humor on the darkest level it may not be a film for everyone, but it certainly captures a different feel for how to tell a movie about a not-too-uncommon Hollywood theme of hit-men and the difficult situations they always seem to find themselves. Witty dialogue keeps the slow-ish pace of the film on track and the comical ending turned tragedy leaves you with a deep appreciation for the people who worked on the entire production.

I have posted my original review below along with a link to a wonderful write up about the film which you should read if you've seen the film and should wait to read if you haven't seen the film.  This write up makes me want to see the film immediately for a 5th time! So much insight.

In Bruges (2008)
Director - Martin McDonagh
Writer - Martin McDonagh
Colin Farrell – Ray
Brendan Gleeson – Ken
Ralph Fiennes – Harry Waters

Ray: Do you think this is good?
Ken: Do I think what's good?
Ray: You know, going around in a boat, looking at stuff?
Ken: Yes, I do. It's called sight-seeing.

The beauty of Bruges, the city in Belgium, is that it is “the most well-preserved medieval city in the whole of Belgium”, according to Ken (Brendan Gleeson) as he flips through his touristy books and maps. Ray (Colin Farrell) responds with the memorable line, “Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn't, so it doesn't.”

This aptly sums up the two distinct personalities of Ken and Ray, two hit-men hired to do a job that did not go according to plan. The two men are sent to the picturesque city of Bruges to wait for further instructions from their boss, Harry Waters, played wonderfully by (Ralph Fiennes). How much time they will have to wait is unknown (though 2 weeks in the same hotel room is probably a good guess) and so the two men proceed to pass the time in various ways and varying degrees of strangeness.

Director Martin McDonagh presents to us a complex film that, on the surface, you might think a fairly typical Hollywood plot. There is murder, drugs, sex, dark comedy, on-location shooting – all things you can find in any big-budget action flick. What In Bruges manages to do is to take all those components and weave them into a story about the human condition, a story told to us through the viewpoint of multiple and distinct characters, each with a set of ideals and thoughts and beliefs that may not agree with each other, but ultimately are strong enough to guide in each of the character’s convictions.

I found myself playing the role of tourist while watching this film, imagining myself climbing the towers or slowly coasting around canal corners. The scenery is breathtaking, no doubt, but it is the character driven film that makes this such a special project. Multiple supporting roles lend so much to the film that it takes some of the burden off the main two characters and allows us to remember that this is a real city with real people living real lives, even if we only get to see a glimpse of the not-so-proper ways of living.

Without giving away too much, for I found that knowing very little going in made this a special experience, it should be noted that whether you feel this is the story of Ken or of Ray, we are privy to so much from each that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Each has and will make his own decisions and accept the consequences, whatever they may be. Ultimately it is a story of convictions for these characters – What can you live with? And what is too much to carry?

This film received multiple award nominations and rightfully so. I was taken in by Gleeson’s portrayal of an introspective, mature hit-man, just as much as I was thrilled to see Farrell pull off a much more complex character than he is used to doing. Along with an American dwarf actor and local drug-selling beauty, In Bruges managed to pull off that rare ability to make me watch no less than 3 times since its release, with an emphasis on hardly being able to wait to go back for a 4th viewing.


No comments: