By George Nethercott (UK)
Martin McDonagh’s first effort sees him blending a typical crime drama with a black comedy. On paper, it sounds like a rather odd combination, yet for In Bruges (2008) it certainly works. McDonagh proves that the crime drama genre is not exhaustive and that there are plenty of ways to create something new and innovative. The film follows two Irish hitmen, Ray and Ken (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson), who are hiding out in Bruges after a job goes horribly wrong. They are left awaiting instructions off of their boss (Ralph Fiennes).
The performances headed by Farrell and Gleeson are phenomenal. They play off each other effortlessly for such an unlikely pairing. The characters are peculiar and eccentric and you’re often left wondering whether to laugh. The dialogue is quick, witty, and reflective of Irish culture. In Bruges becomes one of those films where almost every line is memorable. Ray and Ken are two very different characters. Ray is immediately desperate to leave Bruges whilst Ken wants to explore and “take in the sights”. As the characters develop, it makes such an entertaining watch. Harry (Ralph Fiennes) is one of the many great moments in the film. There is depth to his character – even though you only meet him on screen for the latter part of the film. His introduction is purely dialogue over a telephone. It is also made clear that Harry isn’t your typical cliché villain. He has motives and a purpose – despite being rather psychotic. Ultimately, writing is everything and McDonagh’s is first class.
In Bruges, being set in a European city, has some of the most eerily beautiful camera shots. The medieval buildings look stunning – all reflective of the city’s culture and history. McDonagh’s style of direction is both atmospheric and euphoric. There are also many melancholy and haunting undertones. It’s these contrasts which make the film beautiful to watch, but also give the film its own character – its unique for sure. The film constantly flips between light and dark themes. There are moments where you feel for each character, but also moments where your stomach may burst due to the humour. The film knows what it is – and every scene is fulfilling. One of the best parts of In Bruges is the score, composed by Carter Burwell. The haunting piano pieces playing throughout really make the film have its own character. It’s done masterfully. When you see the dark buildings lit up and hear the score – these simple shots are so much more pleasing to the eye.
In Bruges is a fantastic first effort by Martin McDonagh. It hit and engaged me in every possible way. For me, it is a film which I will always re-watch at some point. The film certainly isn’t going to be for everyone. However, if you’re looking for an interesting crime film with a solid score, characters, emotion, and humour, then In Bruges is something you must see. With so many elements in this film, I have no doubt that almost anyone can find something they like.