“In Bruges” Review
I haven’t laughed this long and this hard at the movies all year — and “In Bruges” isn’t even an out & out comedy.
What a fantastic cinematic surprise this was! I must admit that, in my mind, this film existed on much the same plane as the city of Bruges — I knew that both existed, but I was unaware how wonderful each was to see. Martin McDonagh directs his first feature film by combing wit and whimsy with gravitas and drama in such unique, entertaining and thoughtful ways that “In Bruges” begs to be included in the shortlist of all time great cinema debuts.
This film pulls off a remarkable balancing act, shifting from the sublimely ridiculous to chilling melancholy as if the two were inextricably combined. You will have a tough time telling whether your tears are from laughter or sadness. It is a splendid collage of tones that never fails to engage. “In Bruges” is a master work of originality.
Ray and Ken (Farrell and Gleeson) are two hitmen sent to Bruges to hide out after a botched job. Their boss, Harry (Fiennes), puts them up in a small hotel to await further instructions.
Ken is fascinated by the fairy-tale town, still dominated by ancient streets and architecture, canals and cathedrals. He takes the opportunity to sight-see and taste a little culture. On the other hand, Ray is thoroughly bored by the quaint surroundings, preferring to sample some of the many local beers. His adventures get him hooked up with a local babe, Chloe (Poesy), and a dwarf actor, Jimmy (Prentice), who is on location shooting a film.
Things begin to fall apart for Ray and Ken, for a variety of reasons which I cannot spoil in this review, and soon, Harry is on his way from London to “take care of the problem” himself.
There are hilarious moments throughout this film… the kind of hilarity that only comes from intelligent and truthful character observation. “In Bruges” cannot fully claim to be a comedy, and yet delivers more belly laughs than any film in recent memory. I was weeping at times.
The entire cast is pitch perfect with the comedic timing and subtlety. Note the scene when Jimmy grabs his two drinks in the bar — That has to be one of the funniest “tiny moments” I have seen this decade. It may not even have been intentional — if not, all credit to the director for keeping it in the film.
By contrast, it is extraordinary how well the film transitions to the heavier material. It never feels out of place or inappropriate. Even the toughest scene in the film manages to provide a light note.
“In Bruges” is a perfect exhibition in tone management. It gets all the little things just right. The script is easily one of the best in 2008. The cinematography will have you searching for plane tickets to Belgium. The acting is award worthy. I have no doubt in my mind that this film will rank in my year-end Top 10 List. I am sure that it will become a cult favorite over the years, as it makes the rounds on DVD.