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In Bruges (2008)

Film review: In Bruges (2008), written and directed by Martin McDonagh

After I killed them, I dropped the gun in the Thames, washed the residue off me hands in the bathroom of a Burger King, and walked home to await instructions. Shortly thereafter the instructions came through. “Get the fuck out of London, youse dumb fucks. Get to Bruges.” I didn’t even know where Bruges fucking was.
… It’s in Belgium.

It’s coming up to Christmas and two hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are told by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to lie low and go to Bruges/Brugge for a couple of weeks and await further instructions.

Ken is quite taken with the place and enjoys taking in the sights like the belfry, the canal and so on. Ray, on the other hand, thinks the medieval Belgian city is a shit tip and would rather they had remained somewhere in Britain. He can’t run away from feeling guilty for botching a job just because they’ve crossed the English Channel, after all.

Fortunately he soon finds a few distractions: he meets the beautiful Chloë (Clémence Poésy), is weirdly fascinated by a drugged-up dwarf called Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), and beats up a tourist (Zeljko Ivanek) because he assumes the man is from the US. It sort of goes downhill from there.

Also starring Jérémie Rénier as Eirik, Thekla Reuten as hotelier Marie, Eric Godon as Yuri, with Elizabeth Berrington as Harry’s wife, and Ciarán Hinds as a priest.

The main reason for wanting to see this film is because we went to Bruges/Brugge in October 2012 on our way home from our European driving holiday. And here’s an entire film about the place! If you’re wondering why you should go there, it’s a beautifully preserved medieval city centre and it’s like the chocolate capital of the world. Well worth a visit.

The quote at the top are the opening lines of the film, which sets the tone very well. It’s a sort of black comedy crime thriller. The brilliant lines and occasional extreme violence reminded me of Quentin Tarantino, but this is very restrained compared to his films – and I prefer it this way. Maybe because the humour is very dark in places, just the way I like it. (“You’re a suicide case.” – “And you’re trying to shoot me in the fucking head.”) There were so many laugh out loud moments I lost count. (“They’re filming midgets!!”) Brugge’s old town is really beautiful. And, of course, it’s funny that it’s a film with Voldemort, Mad-Eye Moody, Fleur Delacour and Aberforth Dumbledore.

Apparently Martin McDonagh also did Seven Psychopaths. I was planning on watching that film at some point, and I guess having seen In Bruges means it now gets moved to the top of the to-watch-list, because if it’s half as good as this, it’s still pretty darn good. In Bruges is a film I would heartily recommend and am considering re-watching it already. It’s brilliantly written, well-staged, well-directed and well-acted.

4.8 out of 5 alcoves in Konigin Astridpark.

(UPDATE 2021: I’m not as taken with Seven Psychopaths to be honest, but McDonagh’s next film after that, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is fantastic.)

Traxy

An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

2 thoughts on “In Bruges (2008)

  1. Oh wow, so jealous to hear you’ve been to Bruges! (Have you written up a post on it? I would be keen to read it.) It looked absolutely gorgeous in this film. Of course, the writing and cinematography were really top-notch as well – despite the gruesome content, I couldn’t help but feel there was a “cosy” feel to it? Yeah…

    Haha, I was like you – when I noticed that McDonagh had written Seven Pyschopaths, I immediately wanted to see that as well. I know black comedy’s McDonagh’s thing but it really was well-written.

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