IN BRUGES ****

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IN BRUGES is a magnificently engaging surprise.

It arrives like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the moviegoing doldrums of late winter.

RAY (COLIN FARRELL) and KEN (BRENDAN GLEESON) are a pair of Irish gangsters that have just pulled off a job in London. Their superior HARRY (RALPH FIENNES) tells them to leave town and to travel to Bruges, Belgium. It’s Christmastime. They are to relax, remain inconspicuous and await further instructions.

Bruges is picturesque but rather quaint. The moody, stylish cinematography brings its antique postcard look to glorious life. But it’s anything but a bustling centre of fast paced excitement.

Ken is resolutely cheerful. Ray is dreadfully bored. He thinks Bruges is a complete hellhole. If he can’t find any decent pubs or attractive women to pick up, then he wants to be out of there as soon as possible.

The awaited phone call finally comes a few days after their arrival. Ray isn’t at the hotel so Ken answers. Harry informs him that he wanted them both to enjoy the holiday season together. Then, to Ken’s immense shock and horror, he tells Ken that his next assignment is to take Ray out.

That’s only the beginning. There are many twists, turns and moral imperatives to follow.

To give you additional plot details would spoil the rest of the fun. Suffice to say that this is a completely original film. It’s brilliantly written and directed by the playwright MARTIN McDONAGH, who makes a most impressive feature length debut. It’s far more gripping and suspenseful than the trailer would indicate. But there are wonderful moments of hilarious humour splashed throughout. You never know exactly where it’s going.

None of these three men are beyond redemption. They may be criminals but there is still a certain amount of good in all of them.

Ray’s hard scrabble, clownish exterior masks a wounded soul who’s doing penance for a deed that he committed. He can never forgive himself and he can’t live with it either. Mr. Farrell’s sweetness and natural charm are used to great effect.

Brendan Gleeson’s Ken is both hysterical and heartbreaking. Ralph Fiennes has an amazing range. He’s known primarily for portraying romantic leads or period antiheroes. Here he plays a contemporary Cockney mob boss to absolute perfection. It’s the kind of role that MICHAEL CAINE would have been cast in thirty five years ago. Harry is the lean hungry wolf to Ray’s vulnerable puppy dog.

But there are limits. Even for Harry.

The handsome and talented JORDAN PRENTICE (JIMMY) is also in the mix. His presence adds much to this fabulous ensemble.

This film is thrillingly audacious in every way imaginable and some that you haven’t even considered yet. For potential patrons actively seeking quality entertainment, this is a thoroughly fulfilling spectacle that you’ll be thinking about days later.

Though still early in the cinematic calendar, it’s guaranteed to be remembered at year’s end.

2 Responses to “IN BRUGES ****”

  1. This is one of the better movies of the year so far, though I don’t think I was quite as enthusiastic about it as you were and I’m not sure how long it will stick with me. It was quite entertaining and the performances were great and it looked nice, but it started to lose my interest a bit in the middle. It picked up in the end again though.

    Colin Farrell is terrific in slightly comic roles. I like him much better this way than as the brooding hero type…though he was great in The New World. I guess I just hated Miami Vice. Anyway, he made a great pair with Brendan Gleeson. I also enjoyed the unhinged Ralph Fiennes.

    All in all, a nice review of a good movie.

  2. Miranda Wilding Says:

    Thank you so much for the compliment, Craig. You’re very sweet and I do appreciate that greatly. You do have wonderful taste as well.

    At this point, this is the only 2008 release that I’ve seen that I’ve currently reviewed. (Another’s coming.)

    I found this to be intriguing and fresh. It’s laugh out loud funny, wistful, loaded with suspense, extremely well acted, brilliantly written, masterfully directed – and you never know what direction it’s going to go in next. You don’t often see tragic events and comedic ones blended together so skillfully and to such great effect. The best and the most quintessential example is THE APARTMENT. IN BRUGES isn’t quite on that level but it still delivers the goods.

    That ending really came out of nowhere as well. But I found it to be very effective. Given the circumstances, how else could it possibly have ended?

    I’ve seen Colin Farrell in little else. He did a cameo in Veronica Guerin and I liked him a lot in Ask The Dust. (Much more than the movie itself, actually.) I’m really shocked at what an accomplished talent he is. His personal life seems to have overshadowed his career, which is a real shame. He has tremendous soul and he can take it to the wall. Great things will happen for him if he can soldier the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The industry needs him. I hope that he keeps working.

    Brendan Gleeson is simply wonderful. Any film goes up in my estimation simply from his presence alone. He was hysterical in Breakfast On Pluto. The man is a treasure.

    We had a very memorable year for film in 2007. There may be hope of a new golden age of cinema if we have movies this excellent being released this early.

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