In Bruges

  • Title: In Bruges
  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom // Ireland
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Released: 17 January 2008
  • Run time: 107 Minutes
  • Director: Martin McDonagh (United Kingdom)
  • Starring: Collin Farrell (Ireland), Brendan Gleeson (Ireland), Ralph Fiennes (United Kingdom), Clémence Poésy (France), Jérémie Renier (Belgium)
  • Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Rental, iTunes
  • Recommendation by: Conrad Guiney

“I didn’t even know where Bruges fucking was.”

In Bruges, the remarkable debut of theatre director and writer Martin McDonagh is a startling original film that perfectly blends several genres to create one of the most ingenious films of recent years.

The plot centres on two Irish criminals who have been sent to Bruges after a hit goes horribly wrong. The hit men are Ray and Ken, played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. They are told to lay low and enjoy some sight seeing in the medieval Bruges, Belgium, whilst waiting upon further orders from their boss. The two men have contrasting characters: Ray is restless, inpatient and slightly childish. Ken on the other hand is older, wiser and quieter. They may not quite seem to be themselves, and you will gradually find out the reasons for this as the film develops.

There is conflict between these two characters as they decide on how to spend their time. Ken is a cultured man who wants to visit the famous sights, whilst Ray would much rather to go the pub and drown away his boredom. What happens next and how the story unravels is something I wouldn’t even dare to tell. The film is endlessly surprising and utterly unpredictable.

Along the way there are many memorable characters, lots of laughs and moments of real sadness. The film is at one level a very funny comedy. However, below the surface there is great poignancy in this film as it covers themes such as guilt, regret and friendship. In Bruges also brings up several questions of morality, which is a rarity for a comedy of this kind. This unusual combination of comedy and drama is what makes the film so unique and ultimately very rewarding.

The two central performances are beautifully realised in their warmth and naturalness. Brendan Gleeson is expectedly great, but it is Colin Farrell as Ray who really shines in arguably his best performance to date. In a brilliant multi-layered performance he superbly displays different emotions of anguish, misery and jubilation.

The other star is the film’s titular city.  Bruges is quietly spectacular with its striking sculptures, picturesque canals and “fairy tale” like mist which looms over the city. Carter Burwell’s sweet and melancholic score all the more complements the beautiful scenery. There are only a few films that bring an immediate urge to visit a city and this is one of them.

In a day and age of reboots and remakes, a film like this is truly special; ‘In Bruges’ is one of a kind and a classic in its own right.

Check out Conrad's Letterboxd for more of his reviews!