Troy Loves… In Bruges
Posted on April 22, 2014
Last week I launched a new blog series fittingly entitled Writer Loves… The simple aim is to explore the reasons why we love our favourite films. Now it’s time for the first guest post in the series and it comes courtesy of Troy at The Review Club and focuses on one of his favourite movies, In Bruges.
This film earned Martin McDonagh a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay in 2009, while lead actor Colin Farrell took home a Golden Globe.
Read on as Troy discusses sharp writing, a strong sense of place and comedic timing as some of the main factors in his enjoyment of this black comedy.
Troy at The Review Club discusses In Bruges (2008)
This is a film of dark and wondrous brilliance with a fine example of lyrical screenwriting to portray bickering hit men and the darkly comic events that happen to them. It’s a solid film with great directing and even greater performances that really show the unsettling balance of comedy and threat.
Martin McDonagh, the film’s director, showcases his aptitude for fairy-tale beauty with a dangerous centre with such ease that we get lost in the Belgian city of Bruges as we follow the story of Irish partners in crime Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell). It’s a tense plot with a secret of the past haunting Ray throughout which leaves us guessing. This secret serves up the main antagonist of the piece, as a thoroughly Cockney gangster (Ralph Fiennes) arrives to finish off a hit he had asked Ken to carry out.
“A dazzling display of work”
It is such a dazzling display of work that makes us somehow hate and fall in love with Bruges at the same time, the comedy really stemming from Ray’s dislike of the place. The stunning shots of locations in and around the city, such as the canals or the towering belfry, that become a hotspot of comedy and emotion. It is captured with an eye to make the Belgian city feel atmospheric and dreamlike, even more so by the time we reach the end of the movie where we’re left with an even stronger sense of this place feeling like a tale lifted from a storybook, with creatures looking down making it seem other worldly and odd. A magnificent ending too, I must add, that leaves a question lingering in the mind of what happens to someone. A lovely idea of leaving something to audience interpretation concerning the thought of character resolution and consequences.
The constant arguing between Ken and Ray is amusing and believable and adds a layer of child-like squabbling, a childish theme which suits even more considering Ray’s tragic history. Its poetic and funny language makes even the darker of conversations hilarious. A ring of golden comedy manages to shine around the weirdest of topics, for example the burning debate of another war and what side would they be on if races of people were against one another. A moment of racism that doesn’t feel overly bad because it sets up the talk as stupid and drunken, a time to point and laugh at the characters in their situation. There are too many brilliant conversations to mention but things like discussing the anger of lollipop men or drinking Jesus’ blood all add to the frankly excellent writing.
It’s kudos to Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson though who manage to deliver the lines with conviction making the characters feel utterly real. They have a partnership of being at loggerheads that sets up another level of depth to the story. Gleeson and Farrell also have a knack for punching out lines with perfect comedic timing; one moment in particular as Gleeson delivers a knockout blow against some fat Americans just after Farrell has also said the same thing. They are superb together and make the fatal decision Gleeson’s Ken may have to take even harder to swallow as you realise they do actually have a fondness for each other, Ken being like a father figure to Ray. Yet again another allusion to child-like attributes that mirror Ray’s unfortunate secret.
“Soft moments of beautiful scenery reflect later moments of sadness”
Ralph Fiennes, as crime boss, Harry, is just barmy and fantastic; his strong Cockney accent makes his speeches even funnier because they’re stuffed full with expletives and anger. The exchange between Harry and Ray on the stairs of a little hotel is silly madness but still somewhat believable and also carries a sliver of threat underneath the nonsense image of it all. Ralph Fiennes comes into the plot as a menacing figure and his presence in Bruges arrives at the right time to make everything more dramatic as we wonder what on earth might happen next.
On first viewing I never knew what was on the way and I never expected what happened to each character and loved it because of that unpredictability. There are soft moments of beautiful scenery that reflect later moments of sadness and then we’re suddenly back into something dark or heavy in the world of hit-men. The dialogue is honestly some of the best and funniest I’ve heard in a long time and after seeing this film a lot of times now I can still say I love it. The soundtrack is also suitably paced, with energetic music creating suspense as Harry and Ray chase through the alcoves and magical delicate sounds play over when we see Bruges at its best… or worst in the eyes of Ray.
A wonderful British film lined with black humour and stunning shots to mirror the performances and writing. It’s a movie with a dark series of events that keeps the plot twisting and turning through comedy and thoughts of life and death. Sublime stuff.
A big thank you to Troy for sharing this one with us. You can check out Troy’s blog The Review Club here.
You can find all of the posts in this series here. As this series grows I hope it will work as an homage to everything the blogging community loves about cinema.