In Bruges (2008)

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In Bruges, as the name suggests, is set and filmed in Bruges, the Belgian medieval city of romance and perfect photos. This fairytale destination, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is the location for an excellent story, a mixture of thriller and black comedy, written by director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh. This Irishman has a reputation as a great playwright, he won an Oscar for the short film Six Shooter, and this was his first feature-length project.

The plot of the film follows hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), who are sent to Bruges by their nervous boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) to cool off after a job badly done. While Ken enjoys the Gothic architecture, numerous canals and cobbled streets, Ray is bored and homesick. Their stay in Bruges and waiting for Harry’s call will turn out to be a strange experience, as they will have encounters with tourists, locals, actors making a movie, Dutch prostitutes and the mysterious Chloe (Clémence Poésy), who has dark secrets of her own. When Harry’s invitation finally arrives, their stay becomes a life-and-death struggle, with comical proportions and surprising emotional consequences…

It can be said that the main anti-hero of the film is Ray, who wanders aimlessly through the streets of the city, without interest in culture, burdened by bloodshed, eager for redemption and with the need to end his life. Ray hates being forced to live as a tourist and is certainly not one to censor his thoughts before speaking them out loud. While his partner looks around, Ray has enough of sitting in the pub, trying to drink away his problems. The plot revolves around him, his chances, his encounters and coincidences, until the culmination typical of the genre takes place, which atypically means and carries with it something more.

In Bruges is, at its core, about ruthless people who are looking for redemption. It explores the concept of honor among criminals, who have developed their own principles, with the intention of correcting the fact that they make a living by killing people. Although their profession is not naive, the tone of the film is comical – perfect for the absurdity of our characters’ problems. That comedy is muted, and that way the film doesn’t make fun of its characters and makes the story concept seem original, even though it certainly isn’t. The city of Bruges itself is used as a way to develop the characters, and indirectly we have the opportunity to see a nice travelogue.

The quality of the screenplay is also reflected in the fact that it takes unexpected parts of the characters’ personalities or their unusual habits and combines them into an amusing confluence of strange circumstances. Just when we get used to the appearance of a certain character, a new, equally interesting one appears. I found Ken’s character particularly intriguing as he faces difficulties trying to balance his loyalty to his boss and wanting to help Ray. The dynamics of their relationship and Ken’s situation are further complicated by the appearance of the character who nailed everything.

I liked that the ending of the film doesn’t turn into a standard chase climax, even though it logically progresses there. The author allows us to observe the discussions of the characters until the very end and to see how far their code will take them. As expected, the ending does not represent redemption for our protagonists, but a kind of revenge for their twisted morals and the feeling that they will get what they deserve. Brendan Gleeson is fantastic in the lead role, with the physique of a heavyweight boxer and the ability to present the villain in a likable way (those who have seen The General know what I’m talking about). Colin Ferrell is equal parts funny and sad, probably because he’s allowed to be what he is, a grumpy Irishman.