In Bruges

The nominations:

The Black-and-White:

A review by SpacedCowboy

A very good movie, and a great start for  viewing the contenders in the 2008 awards season. At time of writing, In Bruges has received a number of nominations at various awards ceremonies. The biggest so far was the nod for Colin Farrell at the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. We’ll see about the Oscars when the nominations come out on January 22, 2009 – I am not overly optimistic, but I do have hope.

Here is a snippet from the plot synopsis on imdb.com:

Bruges, the most well-preserved medieval city in the whole of Belgium, is a welcoming destination for travellers from all over the world. But for hit men Ray and Ken, it could be their final destination; a difficult job has resulted in the pair being ordered right before Christmas by their London boss Harry to go and cool their heels in the storybook Flemish city for a couple of weeks. Very much out of place amidst the gothic architecture, canals, and cobbled streets, the two hit men fill their days living the lives of tourists. Ray, still haunted by the bloodshed in London, hates the place, while Ken, even as he keeps a fatherly eye on Ray’s often profanely funny exploits, finds his mind and soul being expanded by the beauty and serenity of the city. But the longer they stay waiting for Harry’s call, the more surreal their experience becomes, as they find themselves in weird encounters with locals, tourists, violent medieval art, a dwarf American actor shooting a European art film, Dutch prostitutes, and a potential romance for Ray in the form of Chloë, who may have some dark secrets of her own. And when the call from Harry does finally come, Ken and Ray’s vacation becomes a life-and-death struggle of darkly comic proportions and surprisingly emotional consequences. Written by Focus Features.

First off, let me say that it was refreshing that this movie successfully employed the core elements of movie-making: good story, character development, acting, cinematography, music and direction. Most dear to my heart was that there actually were protagonists in this film! And the characters went on a journey, and didn’t simply engage in a series of mindnumbing, violent events, with no character arcs or evolution, as seems to define so many modern horrific movies (you know who you are, you POS There Will Be Blood, as an example). Even the antagonists had a story, and an evolution. It was good to see.

And speaking of “good to see”, the film was gorgeously shot. Perhaps too much so. The cinematographer clearly enjoyed using the backdrop of the wonderful city of Bruges, hitting every major landmark in the city (save one) at one point or another. If anything, he may have used the scenery a tad too much. Still, the idyllic Bruges  became another  character in the movie, and was a central element of the story. That’s good cinematography and few movies are so successful in this regard.

For my money, the best actor in the movie wasn’t Colin Farrell, Golden Globes notwithstanding, although he was very good. The biggest surprise for me was the nuanced, thoughtful, menacing, tender performance submitted by Brendan Gleeson (aka Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody in the Harry Potter series!). This man can act. I don’t recall his performance in the other “serious” movies he’s done (e.g., Cold Mountain) but I do look forward to seeing him again soon. His character exhibited a complex mix of introspection, melancholy, curiosity, violence, intelligence, culture, friendship and loyalty, all while being a ruthless hitman, and friend and mentor to a very unstable, flawed yet sympathetic partner. It was a tour-de-force performance that whispered in its brilliance, rather than screaming and demanding your attention. Bravo.

No big criticisms of this film. It was a big over-the-top in tugging on emotions, but, in general I am sympathetic to that. I’m not sure it was a grand slam, but then again, I’m not sure why. I’d happily see acting nods for Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell. First-time director/writer Martin McDonagh deserves some consideration as well. Eigil Bryld made the most of the material with the cinematography. Good film. Well done.

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One Response to In Bruges

  1. […] I’ve seen a definite return to the art of great story telling. “Milk”, “In Bruges“, “Benjamin Button” and even “Slumdog Millionaire” (a tough, yet […]

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