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In Bruges (2008)

I’m working late shifts this week which means I get the morning and some of the afternoon to potter about before having to go to work.

Yesterday I woke up and had a strong urge to watch a film that I loved the first time I watched it, but somehow haven’t watched again since. Weirdly it’s popped up several times in various conversations over the last few weeks.

In Bruges (2008)

If you haven’t seen this film, it’s a brilliant black-comedy/crime/drama written and directed by Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), starring Colin Farrell (The Batman), Brendan Gleeson (28 Days Later), Clémence Poésy (Tenet) and Ralph Fiennes (No Time to Die) among others.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman, Ray (Farrell) and his partner Ken (Gleeson) are ordered to Bruges, Belgium to hide out until things cool down. While Ray hates everything about the medieval city they find themselves in, Ken finds its beauty and peacefulness enchanting. As they await orders from their ruthless boss (Fiennes) they struggle to keep a low profile.”

Like a few other films I now love I had to be badgered to watch this one for years before I finally got round to it.

It was back in the days when I was a bit fussier about what I watched (and dare I say more narrow minded). It also didn’t help that all I knew about the story was that it was about two hitmen in Bruges, and that didn’t make it sound overly appealing.

How wrong I was - there’s way more to it than that. It’s a comedy masterpiece!

There are so many things to like about this film that I thought, in the interest of being thorough I’d list some of them for you (spoiler free of course).

Firstly, the casting which is superb!

Colin Farrell is hilarious as Ray, a guy who sees being stuck in Bruges for two weeks as his definition of hell. For a lot of the film he acts like a spoilt child and that in itself creates a lot of the laughs.

In stark contrast there’s Brendan Gleeson’s character, Ken, who, unlike Ray is loving every minute of being there - soaking up the sites, the history and generally the whole experience.

The chemistry between the two actors and the fact that their characters are so different is essentially what makes this film so enjoyable.

Throw in Ralph Fiennes (with a cockney accent) who’s absolutely brilliant as Ken’s ruthless boss and long time friend and you barely need anything else to make it all work.

Secondly, there’s the setting:

Bruges ("it's in Belgium") looks beautiful!

I’ve never been personally but I’d like to. I went to Prague a couple of years ago and it seems similar in terms of the character of the place and the history (“Bruges is the most well preserved medieval town in the whole of Belgium apparently”).

It’s so picturesque that the cinematography of this film alone is a treat for your eyeballs.

Thirdly there’s the story:

Ironically, the premise of this movie (which was initially not appealing enough for me to be interested) is now one of the main things I love about it.

There’s so much more to the story than you’d think. It’s not just a really funny comedy, it’s also an extremely tragic tale with lots of different, entertaining scenarios playing a part in bringing all of the characters together for the finale.

Interestingly, the story came about when Martin McDonagh (writer and director) went to Bruges for a couple of days on a train from London. He was initially struck by how cinematic the place was with all of the "strange, medieval, gothic architecture and beautiful canals", but by the middle of the second day he was bored out of his head.

This became the basis of the story, with the two main characters embodying (according to Brendan Gleeson) "the two opposite sides of Martin's brain."

And finally, the humour:

Martin McDonagh has a really unique storytelling style that makes all of his films stand out. The humour in particular, especially in this film and in Seven Psychopaths is brilliant! It’s often quite dark and possibly not to everyone’s taste but as long as you’re not easily offended you’ll love it.

The two main character’s Irish accents also make a lot of the comedy in this even funnier (for me at least) and it’s actually nice to hear them speak in their natural accents for a change.

On top of all of that the simple and melancholic piano themed score by Carter Burwell suits the tone of the film perfectly!

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are actually set to reunite for Martin McDonagh’s latest film, The Banshees of Inisherin (due out later this year). If you’re a fan of this film then that’s definitely one to look out for.

If you haven’t seen In Bruges I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you like a good character-driven story, dark comedy, and excellent performances.

It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Seen it? Let me know below.

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