While In Bruges is an older film (2008), it’s only now seeing the light of day on Blu Ray. While it received fairly positive reviews from critics and earned a much-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, the film did get overlooked by many. Now that it is on Blu-Ray we get a chance to travel back to the little city of Bruges and view it in all its high-definition glory.
In Bruges is a black comedy in the truest sense and, for the most part, it works pretty well. The film has Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson playing two hitmen sent to Bruges, a city in Belgium. Their boss (Ralph Fiennes) sends them there with instructions to lay low and await further instruction. Of course, not is all as it seems and as the true reason behind their stay in Bruges becomes apparent, all hell breaks loose and the film takes off.
Farrell plays Ray, a hitman who botched up his first job by killing an innocent bystander. Racked with guilt, Ray is on the edge and doesn’t know what to do with himself. Gleeson plays Ken, the more seasoned hitman and mentor to Farrell’s Ray. Ken is instructed by their boss to keep an eye on Ray while they are in Bruges.
Both leads are very good here. Farrell, milking his bad boy charm, offers a very funny and witty performance. His timing is great and his facial expressions are wonderful. Who knew the young actor could be so amusing? While still retaining humor, Farrell also offers a touching role as we see him as a man truly broken by what he has done. He moves through various emotions so fluently as he goes from funny and violent to tortured and fragile. He does so with gracefulness and ease.
As Ray, he sulks around Bruges, miserable and eager to leave. While Ken is fascinated by the various tourist attractions, Ray complains and whines telling Ken, “If I’d grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.” The contrast between his character and Gleeson’s character makes the whole film work.
Gleeson does his best to keep up with Farrell’s wit and spark and, for the most part, does a good job. Gleeson is a very dependable actor and doesn’t disappoint here, playing the straight man to Farrell’s dark comic relief. While his performance is the weaker of the two, he approaches the role with a more mature and seasoned attitude. He creates entertaining chemistry with Farrell and, overall, the duo provide for some great entertainment. Their comic timing is spot on and they are a pleasure to watch on screen together. The only issue I had with the performances was that both the leads have very thick accents which made some of the dialogue pretty tough to hear.
Also turning in a great performance is Fiennes as Ray and Ken’s boss, Harry. Although Fiennes doesn’t show his face until the final act, he is equally as good as Farrell and Gleeson. Channeling his best Ben Kingsley a la Sexy Beast, Fiennes plays the crime boss with just enough ferocity to be afraid of him but with also just enough humor to make him entertaining. With a bit of a forced character arc, Fiennes does the best he can with his somewhat underwritten role and he does an excellent job. He brings a burst of energy to the film, kicking it back to life after a mediocre second act. Fiennes steals every scene he is in and he gives one of his best performances in recent years.
Performances aside, the directing is also very solid. While first-time director Martin McDonagh does drop the ball a few times, he’s easily forgiven. A veteran of theater but a rookie to filmmaking, McDonagh shows promise while those newbie mistakes still shine through. He captures humor in both obvious and subtle ways through his writing.
That said, he sometimes lets the conversation between our two protagonists drag on for too long. The banter between the two becomes indulgent and it provides for some fairly static conversations. While I appreciate that McDonagh is trying to explore his characters through dialogue, it got to be a bit too much at some parts. It also hurt the film in terms of pacing. While the film starts out strong, the pacing lets up in the second act and it slows down. Thankfully, by the time the third act starts and Fiennes’ Harry shows up, there’s enough excitement to push the film into its ending and provide an entertaining and amusing third act.
Speaking of the ending, the final shootout scene is exciting but it is clearly shot by a novice as the precision and fluency that we’d see in a Greengrass or Morel film just isn’t here. The actual ending itself is also a bit silly and I can’t say I agreed with how McDonagh ended the film.
The city of Bruges is captured wonderfully which is in large part due to the cinematography. The quaint little village serves as a perfect backdrop for this wild and outrageous tale. Cinematographer Eigil Bryld shoots the city so well that it becomes a character unto itself. After seeing the film I am actually curious to go and visit Bruges and I’m sure a lot of people will feel the same after they watch the film.
Overall, In Bruges is undeniably a good film. While it suffers from some rookie mistakes from McDonagh, it is still able to hold itself together to provide a fun, unique and entertaining romp through the streets of a fascinating city.
In Bruges offers a fairly strong transfer as both the video and audio come through quite well. The great cinematography translates over beautifully as the city of Bruges comes to life. The canals and architecture seen around the city look wonderful and the visual transfer really hits the mark. The vibrant and rich colour palette shines through in this clean and polished film. Close ups look great and facial expressions are crisp and revealing. Black levels take a bit of a hit but flesh-tones are spot on. All the exteriors in Bruges look crisp thanks to the transfer.
The audio is pretty good also. Dialogue is reproduced near-perfectly and the clearness of it all is superb. The track is mainly dialogue but when it does have to kick it up a notch it has no problem doing so. The first half, which is admittedly more of a low key affair offers a fairly minimalist audio track. The second half sees a lot more action and the disc handles it well. The soundtrack also comes through as smooth and engaging.
The special features are quite a letdown. They include the following:
- 18 deleted scenes, 2 extended scenes
- Gag reel – 6 minutes
- A boat trip around Bruges – Scenic views of Bruges set to text based facts about the city (5 minutes)
- D-Box Motion Code enabled
- BD-Live enabled
There is really nothing here that is worthy of your time as they are all forgettable features.
Overall In Bruges is a very good film. The few problems it has are not enough to make it anything less than great. The film alone is worth the purchase of the Blu-Ray and the great transfer only adds to the package. While the special features are lame and forgettable everything else is top notch.
In Bruges offers some great performances and is truly funny at times. Highly recommended!