Last year, I was finally introduced to the incredible minds of John and Martin McDonagh. In all my years of watching films, I have never quite encountered films quite like the ones these two have made. The Guard and Calvary (which is one of the best films of 2014) were brilliant pieces of Irish satire and overall amazing films altogether. Those two were made by John Michael, who seems to be the far more serious and political of the brothers. Martin, on the other hand, has a penchant for the brighter and more humorous side to life. His plays and films are still dark and relatively violent and gory, but they are a lot funnier, and that is demonstrated the best in In Bruges.
I can’t sing enough praises for Brendan Gleeson. Decades of the most diverse film work in supporting roles as a dedicated character actor is not ideal for many actors, yet Gleeson has done it, and through his work with McDonagh has started to form more of a leading man status in films. Here he plays Ken, a well-weathered and kindhearted man who, as it happens, works as an assassin, and has for many years. In both The Guard and Calvary, Gleeson was very dour and serious, and the films found humor in his serious, almost misanthropic personality. As Ken, however, he is absolutely charming and endearing. Ken, despite killing people for money, is a gentleman and an absolute sweetheart. Gleeson basically impresses me with every film he makes, and I’d say he just needs the right film to become the household name he deserves, but I actually believe he’s done more than enough to be a household name, the household just needs to wake up and become aware of him.
How many of us think Colin Farrell is a bad actor? Count me as one of them. Except, he’s not at all a bad actor, which I what I for believed for years. Instead, he is a good actor put in bad movies. Farrell gave an absolutely stellar performance as Ray, the other half of the assassin duo. Ray is forced to face retribution for a monumental mistake he made, which he soon realizes is a matter of life and death. Ray is a despicable character – rude, crass and nasty. Farrell uses his snarky attitude and sarcastic delivery to full effect in his performance as Ray, a bitter man who has to deal with both the real-life and mental consequences of his actions. Ray is a wonderful character – very rarely is such a nasty character so endearing and lovable. In Bruges is a career highlight for Farrell, and while he has tried more arty and independent work, he has yet to top his remarkable performance as Ray in this film.
The best part about non-American films is that most of them are very dialogue-driven. That could be a downside for some, but when you have Martin McDonagh, one of the greatest playwrights of all time, writing a script, it is going to be something special. The conversations between Ken and Ray and Harry (Ralph Fiennes) are absolutely hilarious and remain quotable for months after you see the film. It is smart, funny and very edgy. The dialogue greatly helps captivate the audience, and forms the most integral part of the film – the action and visuals take a backseat to the exhilarating script, which is the true star of the film. McDonagh accomplishes an absolutely wonderful feat here, and his script remains possibly my favorite of all time. It is just a winner on every front.
In Bruges definitely was a huge surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting a bad film, because just prior I watched The Guard and Calvary. Yet, I still wasn’t prepared for the amount of fun In Bruges was. It was wonderfully gory, incredibly hilarious and the three principal actors give career best performances (but once again, everything Gleeson does is a career best performance) and I absolutely loved the film. It fast became one of my favorite films, and it surprised me so much. It is just further proof that we should continue to support the production of independent and international cinema, because if they are able to make something as brilliant as In Bruges, imagine what else they are capable of. Truly an amazing and captivating and hilarious film.