According to Wikipedia, Bruges is the capital of Belgium and home to the college of Europe. Much of the architecture from the 12th and 13th centuries is in good shape and preserved fairly well. The Church of Our Lady is one of the tallest brick buildings in the world. The Basilica of the Holy Blood purports to be a church that houses some blood from Christ. It also serves as the backdrop for a couple of hitmen who have to find comfort in the town for awhile in the film set in Bruges, called In Bruges.
The film was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, whose previous work was in the Oscar-winning short film Shooter. Ray (Colin Farrell, The Recruit) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson, Kingdom of Heaven) are forced to stay in the town for two weeks, after an assassination assignment given to Ray turns particularly brutal. The two look at this presumed exile in two different ways; Ray thinks of it as purgatory; he loves the lifestyle of London and access to anything he wishes. Ken rather enjoys it. He views it as an opportunity to enjoy a place he’s never been before. The nuances of Bruges are also memorable; aside from a little person in a movie and a drug dealing local named Chloe (Clemence Poesy, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the film is chock full of hilarity and hijinks. When Ken and Ray’s boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List) comes to meet with the boys, things take a bit of a dramatic turn.
It’s hard to try and outline plot events that McDonagh set up in the film, partly because the events that happen are too few, plus I’d recommend that folks discover them on their own. We know that Ken and Ray are in Belgium; we know ken likes it a little more than Ray, but the in-between provides an interesting journey. McDonagh gets the characters talking immediately, and charming Irish lilt aside, you are drawn in and are curious about what they’ve done to get them to Bruges.
It makes things a whole lot easier when you’ve got a cast who appreciates the material and doesn’t overplay it either. Well, let me clear up a little bit here. Farrell’s performance seems to flirt with the Jerry Lewis tip a little bit, but the performance itself is hilarious. Along the way, he manages to show Ray as a kid who’s rarely been out of his element and is a new hitman, but when he crosses that line, he’s scared of what’s become and wants to be done with it. Many will recognize Gleeson as “Mad Eye Moody” from the Harry Potter franchise, but as Ken, Gleeson is a soul who’s seen much badness and evil over the last three decades and has perspective to back him up. The two are firmly believable in their roles, and the story that’s told is quite engrossing and fun. Aside from the last act where things make you think that McDonagh might have taken a little surrealist way out, In Bruges is fun with some emotion to it.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround here, but the film’s events are pretty muted, and there’s no real action to warrant surround activity or subwoofer engagement. The dialogue sounds clear, albeit in whispers for chunks of it, and if you’re not used to Irish accents, a subtitle option is available for you.
Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, McDonagh’s first feature outing looks solid, with a very natural look and film grain present through much of the production. Obviously, the choice to shoot in Scope was to highlight the city and its backdrop, which he does well. I’d kill to see this on high definition, but I’ll take what’s here.
Honestly, the only thing (aside from the ending) that holds this disc back from being a complete keeper is the lack of a commentary, but the material here is decent nonetheless. 18 minutes of deleted and extended scenes are the longest supplement, and some of the scenes are quite interesting, notably an inclusion of the incident between Harry and Ken when they were both younger. “When In Bruges” is an approximately 15-minute look at the making of the film, with thoughts from the cast on their characters and McDonagh’s story, while McDonagh shares his inspiration for writing it. It’s spoiler-heavy, so make sure you skip it until after the film. “Strange Bruges” examines the lure of Bruges and what drew McDonagh to it and explains the difference between soundstage and location shoots. “A Boat Trip around Bruges” is next; six minutes of a camera on a boat while a subtitled track highlights information on the location. A six-minute gag reel is quite funny, and “F’ing Bruges” is two minutes of F and S bombs during the film, which is also kind of funny.
In Bruges is a sleepy film that pays as much attention to the sleepy Belgian retreat as it does it’s familiar and small cast. McDonagh aptly weaves a dark comedy into a story whose characters explore redemption and personal closure, set to some fascinating visuals. A definite must-see, but I’d consider picking this up, as it might wind up being a film you rewatch on occasion.