|Directed by:||Martin McDonagh|
|Written by:||Martin McDonagh|
|Cast:||Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy|
It comes in no surprise at all that writer/director Martin McDonagh wrote and directed a slew of award winning plays before venturing into film, because it’s merely impossible to look at his first feature-length picture, “In Bruges”, and not recognize the utterly brilliant strokes of characterization, development and dialogue that are so astute, they could have only been written by someone who knows the craft of writing and developing characters all too well. And with that said, it would be an absolute understatement to say that McDonagh’s writing talent is put to uncanny use in In Bruges.
The film, first and foremost, is a tremendously well-crafted crime-dramedy that admirably succeeds in ballasting off of the development of its central characters rather than the build up of some sort of slick plot structure. After guilt-ridden hit-man Ray accidentally shoots a child on his first time on the job, he and his older, wiser associate Ken decide to head off to Bruges, a venerable city in Belgium that’s beauty and grandeur matches its dullness and monotony. As we watch Ken enjoy sightseeing Bruges and Ray be ultimately bored by it, we are immediately pulled by their colorful, humorously contrasting personalities. While Ray is the naïve, terse, and compulsive young man who just can’t stay out of trouble and Ken is the thoughtful, more experienced criminal who has a lot more to contemplate given all the years of immoral doings he has culminated, the two just can’t help but delve into constant debates and even deft conversations. The dynamic between he two can easily be described as something along the lines of “Pulp Fiction-esque”, based on how the film greatly manages to present them as accessible everyday men rather than caricatures and watching them engage in small talk and in-depth discussions about themselves, death, and life after death certainly provides excellent dialogue that mirrors that of the now infamous Jules and Vincent.
But after opening with an array of witty dialogue and humorous predicaments, the film fearlessly, and successfully, starts to take the route of a crime drama. And while there is always delightful humor peppered into many scenes throughout the film, the spices undeniably surge to their most macabre tastes by the final act. The quaint melancholy and inner-turmoil hinted by the central characters earlier soon becomes fully exposed as the story gradually develops into one that delves head-first into the facets of friendship, honor, loyalty, guilt, redemption, and moral ambiguity. Ray, on the verge of suicide, feels that he is undeserving of solace and forgiveness for the horrible murder he committed, Ken seeks personal redemption as he contemplates upon the malevolent life he has led, and the hardened, cold-blooded boss of the two, Harry, wants them dead to in order to seek balance in business.
It’s simply fascinating and totally engaging to see such a stylish chronicle of crime unfold with nothing more than dark, fearless wit and character dynamics. And what dynamics they are! Everything from chemistry, development and glaringly sharp dialogue is utilized and honed to their utmost affect, thanks to the McDonagh’s blazing firecracker of a screenplay, beautifully carved into three solid dimensions. But yet, the truly genuine treat comes within watching actors such as Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes sink their teeth into such rich material. Everyone is simply at the top of their game in this picture. Redeeming himself as a true talent after such mindless matinees as S.W.A.T and The Recruit, Farrell churns in a career best with a surprisingly nuanced performance that perfectly balances quick, charming wit with a very engaging melancholy. Gleeson also fleshes out his character to superb extents with his stunningly poignant and high caliber performance that I would definitely call an Oscar-worthy career high for him. And just as much as Farrell is engaging and Gleeson is riveting, the true glaring scene stealer is the terrific Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes is an absolute ace and comedic timing and deliverance and clearly has as much fun as possible with his sadistic, nevertheless ironically comedic character. In all, there isn’t a single performance in the film that isn’t worth remembering and everyone wonderfully contributes to the perfect blend of comedy and drama.
With a palpable fearlessness towards rising above the average crime comedy/drama without seeming like a mere imitation of greater works, In Bruges is simply a breath of fresh air for the crime genre. McDonagh and the searing ensemble of admirable actors have managed to create a stylish, fun, humorous, macabre, and all-out engaging roller coaster of bombarding bullets and sympathetic hit men.