Sundance Review: In Bruges
by Alex Billington
January 18, 2008
In Bruges, the opening night film at Sundance this year, is an interesting story that takes place, as the title points out, in Bruges, Belgium. While not a masterpiece in any sense, In Bruges surpassed all my expectations. Not only did I find myself laughing quite often, but I was enjoying every minute so much that I could easily see myself watching this again multiple times and revisiting it with friends. It's a half-drama, half-comedy, quarter-action film where two hitmen, who just finished a job, are sent to hideout in the quaint town of Bruges until their boss calls with instructions.
Colin Farrell stars as Ray, the younger, unequivocal, and slightly crazy hitman interested in beer and women, where Brendan Gleeson stars as Ken, the more reserved and peaceful hitman, interested in culture, churches, and sightseeing. The two clash head on with a dynamic that serves them both well. Whereas typically you might expect that Farrell is not that great of an actor, here in In Bruges, he pulls off a character that is both funny and slightly human, even if it's in a twisted and racist way. Gleeson, as always, does a fantastic job as well, and the two compliment each other quite nicely.
As is always the case with my reviews, the cinematic atmosphere of the film is an important part in my overall feeling. With In Bruges, I was drawn in, especially in the last third, by the wonderfully cinematic visuals. Any film that reaches a point where the snow slowly begins falling in a medieval European town and is all captured perfectly amidst an interesting part of the story definitely gets my approval. On top of that, an impressive score with moody songs and the occasional energetic boost convinced me that Martin McDonagh, although a first time feature film director, really knows how to pull off great atmosphere.
The only problems with In Bruges were primarily with the tone. Although this didn't pull me out of the film all too much, it often would jump between trying to be comedic, thanks to Farrell's snappy whit, and overly dramatic, with some emotional twists in the story. Honestly, I thought the emotional twist added a particular depth to the story and really enhanced what otherwise had seemed like another dull comedy up until that point. In Bruges did really impress me and far surpassed my expectations, which given there wasn't much I was expecting to like, is quite a feat.
I also have to give particular mention to Ralph Fiennes, who, from the trailer, seemed to be embodying Ben Kingsley as London mob boss Don Logan in Sexy Beast all over again, right down to the bald head. Throughout most of the movie, that's exactly what I thought, up until the last few scenes, where Fiennes really seemed to add a unique touch to his character Harry. However, it is undeniable that Fiennes' inspiration comes quite a bit from Ben Kingsley, and yet it still didn't feel like a copy.
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