Movie Review: In Bruges

“What’s Belgium famous for? Chocolate and Child Abuse. And they only invented the chocolate to get the children.”

In Bruges is a dramatic and comedic powerhouse that still manages to develop into a tense action piece by movie’s end.

It follows the toils of hitmen Ray (Colin Farell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), recently fled from England after a hit-gone-wrong. They attempt to hide out in the city of Bruges, Belgium, which Ken falls instantly in love with, while Ray becomes addicted to an endless stream of fights, midgets, and the love of a beautiful woman. Though Ray eventually attempts to flee at the behest of Ken, events go awry when their boss, Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) hears of the attempt.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of this one. It starts off slow, beginning as a more subtle drama, focusing on the detached hitmen drifting through exile. You gain insights into their personalities. Ray is the comical, energetic newbie, who is nevertheless haunted by his botching of the hit in England—a hit that left a young boy dead on the floor of a church. Ken is the aging mentor—kind, peaceful despite his work, and looking to settle down. Each reacts to the quiet city in different ways, the drama of their experience interspersed with bits of comedy flavor.

The dream-like quality of Bruges extends into the feeling of the movie itself, embodied in the production of a foggy dream scene by movie producers in Bruges—but this changes sharply as reality begins to seep in. About half-way through, the movie rackets up a notch, propelled by an attempted suicide and execution, and a resulting flight from danger. One tries to leave, only to be drawn back in; the other stays to fight, only to be undermined by the untimely re-arrival of the first. Action picks up as anger flares and bullets start to fly, and emotion bursts with it. Romance, Tragedy, and Action collide in powerfully dramatic moments that lead far from the comedy, balancing out the former humor with moments of intense and crippling depression.

This one does not have a happy ending, and it does not end as you might expect it to.

Despite going through the motions with a fairly common setup—the two classic hitmen, one new, one old, struggling to break from the path they’ve chosen—this movie ended up an unexpected gem. Farell’s character is undeniably entertaining, and you really feel for Gleeson’s—the gentility and simple kindness to him is inspiring. Both deliver in the acting department, and they are bolstered by a wonderfully written script that effortlessly balances along that precarious line of tragedy and comedy. There will be smiles and laughter, but so too will there be tears—while the shocking final act will leave you at the edge of your seat.

It is grippingly cinematic, and while you feel the characters, you will feel the world as well. The foggy streets of Bruges come to life before your eyes, and the longer you spend there, the more it grows on you. The air about the city reflects the change and growth of the characters and their situation itself, moving gradually from dream to nightmare. Scenes are beautifully shot, and the movie has flow—first a babbling brook, then a raging river.

If you want a good movie, and have a little patience, I would definitely recommend In Bruges. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what it has to offer.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

~ by Chris G. on April 28, 2010.

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