Thursday, December 06, 2007

Movie Review: In Bruges

Bruges is a city in Belgium. From the 12th through 15th centuries it was a huge economic capital in Europe, but then a river changed and the city fell in decline. I was at a conference in Brussels in the 90s and spent a day sightseeing around Bruges. Much of the medieval architecture is still there and it's like stepping 700 years into the past. Tonight I saw an early screening of the film In Bruges and all I knew about it was the title. It's not coming out until next year.

Like so many of the films I've liked this year, it's another dark crime thriller, but this one also has a lot of comedy. Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are hit men who need to lay low after a job. They are sent to Bruges and are supposed to stay there until their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) calls. Ken is fascinated by the history, architecture and sights; Ray is bored out of his mind and can't wait to get back to London. His mood changes when they come across a film set and Ray is smitten by Chloë (Clémence Poésy) and fascinated by Jimmy a dwarf actor (though through the film I kept thinking it was Peter Dinklage, no it's not, yes it is, but no it was Jordan Prentice). They go out, they party and yes this is a crime thriller, violence does ensue, with some graphic (though brief) shots.

The casting was superb. There's a lot of Colin Farrell's reputation in Ray, a wild boy who constantly swears, drinks, argues and fights with people. Farrell sometimes annoys me but is perfect in this role. Gleason is even more impressive, giving Ken a soul and making us care about this killer and understand his conscience. These two have lots of conversations on history, morality and some are very funny. Ralph Fiennes' Harry is volatile angry man, who reminded me of Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. A phone message that Harry leaves was one of my favorite scenes. Yes, there's a fair amount of Tarantino in the script and sometimes it felt a little contrived (like when someone at the next table at dinner started arguing with Ray) but mostly it worked wonderfully; I laughed a lot at this film.

I always appreciate a tight script and In Bruges delivered. Things established early on are followed up on later. Things that you think are a fun throw away come back into relevance. It's not a jigsaw puzzle like The Usual Suspects, but an internally consistent story without fat to trim. I was annoyed a couple of times at things like people not slipping when running on wet cobblestone roads (probably because I slipped on icy steps Tuesday), and I wondered why there weren't more cops in Bruges, but mostly it was well done. There are a lot of shots of beautiful old buildings and canals but sometimes they were a bit blurry and that annoyed me. Also, while the music was overall fine, I thought in two scenes the songs were overdone. But those are minor complaints for a very entertaining film.

In Bruges was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. His previous film was a 27 minute short called Six Shooter which won the Best Live Action Short Film Oscar in 2006. It's a bleak dark comedy and is available on iTunes for $1.99.

After the film we were given long questionnaires to fill out. One woman starting screaming that film the was a piece of crap that merely glorified violence. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but everyone else in the audience seemed to enjoy it. I certainly had a lot of fun with it. It will play at Sundance in January, and IMDB lists a limited US release in February. I say catch it.


The Dad said...

Saw this last night. We loved it. Nice review, spot on. While trying not to spoil anything, the final scene with "the boy" seemed a little contrived. And I wondered where all the cops were too. And for that matter, where ANYONE was any time a gun came out. You mention music...there was music? Never noticed. Loved the bit about "the alcoves".

Howard said...

Yeah, it's still one of my favs of the year.

Howard said...

It was on cable in HD so I watched it again, in the morning no less. It's much better the second time. There's a lot of allusion in the first half hour before things things fully explained. There are also so many memorable conversations, like the alcoves.
Personally my favorites were "Harry, it's an inanimate fucking object." and the bit about Harry's capacity to change.