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In Bruges

Shoot first. Sightsee later.  

Year: 2008 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Martin McDonagh 
Starring: Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Clémence Poésy.  
An image from In Bruges

Ray (Colin Farrell) is a brash, young, Irish hit-man forced to lie low for two weeks in the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges after a difficult job. Ray is bored, restless and not keen on anything in the city apart from Chloe (Clemence Poesy). He is unlike fellow hit-man Ken (Brendan Gleeson) who is a little older and it appears, despite his profession, likes nothing better than a relaxing boat trip admiring eleventh century architecture.

As traditional gangster movies go, this isn’t one. In Bruges follows the odd couple Ken and Ray’s encounters with a range of eccentric characters throughout with a mixture of irreverent humour and genuinely touching moments. However, with the introduction of principled mob boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), things start to move towards more familiar gangster movie territory: guns, drugs and death.

The film does meander a little in certain places, but as usual, all plot strands are neatly and intelligently wrapped up before the end, and even though it may not seem it at the time, almost every other character encountered is vital to the story and a source of much of the dark humour; from the racist dwarf film star to the Russian gun-seller.

Credit must go to Colin Farrell who shows that he has the ability to play deeper roles than much of his past work, and really goes back to his Irish roots playing a character that it’s clear he empathises with. However it is his relationships with Chloe and Ken, which really elevate this film above its competition; the snappy dialogue between Ken and Ray is one of the highlights of the film. By showing just how likeable and funny these two characters are, director Martin McDonagh has been able to walk a fine line in creating sympathy for two fundamentally flawed characters.

The medieval city of Bruges is also beautifully captured, not only by the idyllic views of the city, but also by the film’s score, which seems perfect for the setting, especially in the opening scenes of the film.

For the feature-length debut from a director, In Bruges is engaging, original, funny and well worth a watch whether you enjoy action or aesthetics.

Will Carter

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Screenings of this film:

2008/2009 Autumn Term (35mm)