In Bruges is a movie that took me by surprise. When I read the synopsis before watching the film, I thought that I was in for a good dark comedy with some passable action scenes. And while the movie is funny a truly bizarre way, I found myself engrossed in the film’s dramatic scenes more than anything. This is a film rich in character, themes and symbolism, and it was a very welcome surprise to see such a good movie develop from what appears to be such a benign concept.
Hitmen Ray and Ken are sent to Bruges, Belgium to lay low after a hit goes wrong. Ray killed someone he was not supposed to, and now the two hitmen must wait to hear from their employer to find out what their next move is. Ray is young, brash, and perhaps the rudest person to ever walk the face of the earth, but Colin Ferrell’s portrayal makes him loveable nonetheless. Ken is a more experienced and refined professional, interested in seeing the sights of Bruges and taking in the culture. Of course, Ken acts as Ray’s comedic foil, though surprisingly enough, he isn’t present for many of the film’s funnier moments, like the scenes where Ray insults American tourists or goes on an awkward date. The film isn’t content to rest its laurels on being a buddy comedy.
Instead, this film delves deep into concepts like guilt, honor, and loyalty throughout the course of a deeply emotional and thought-provoking story. I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m vague on the details, but none of the twists are worth spoiling to tell how brilliantly implemented they are. Just believe me when I say that you will be on the edge of your seat, and you’ll still get a few good laughs along the way.
The relationship between Ray and Ken is fantastically realized. Ray drinks excessively and does drugs, but this is largely a ploy to distract from his own guilt. Ken tries to be there to mentor the poor rookie, but is equally frustrated by Ray’s incessant childish antics. The two together have a very strong on-screen chemistry, and it’s hard not to care about how their fates will resolve, especially when their hilariously insane boss enters the picture. Speaking of, bravo to Ralph Fiennes for his role as said boss, Harry, for every scene he is in he exudes a feebly attempted level of professionalism that only barely hides a whiplash temper and a painfully absolute code of honor. It’s a remarkably subtle, yet boisterous performance, and his presence is a fantastic addition to the film’s third act. All three main characters are wonderfully unique and a joy to watch.
There’s also a surprising amount of subtext about purgatory, hell, and punishment for one’s sins, and it is more than welcome how the film takes advantage of its historic setting to play up those literary factors. The climax in particular calls back to an earlier scene in the film through some fantastically surreal imagery, and it ends the film on a perfect note. That’s not to say that the film is perfect, though. I won’t say that I particularly cared for some of the film’s more vulgar jokes, but considering the vulgarity of the particular characters spouting them, I can let it slide.
Overall, In Bruges is a film well worth your time and Netflix subscription. It’s smartly written, funny as hell, and impossible not to get emotionally invested in. It’s great choice for an evening alone with a beer and some popcorn.
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