(massive spoilers ahead)
The mind is its own place,
and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell,
a Hell of Heaven.
- John Milton
Two hit men are sent to Bruges. It's in Belgium. One of them, Ray, hates the place and calls it a 'shithole', the second, Ken is enchanted by its beauty and enjoys sightseeing. Lovely and simple isn't it?
No it isn't. Ray, whilst being on hist first 'mission' was supposed to kill a priest and he did. The problem is, the bullet reached a little boy and killed him as well. Ray cannot live with his overwhelming feeling of guilt. He isn't a bad person, he's charming, a little bit shy and lost guy, simple person who is crashed emotionally by one tragic event. For Ray Bruges is hell - he is being haunted by the memory of that horrible event when he sees happy kids. He is bored out of his mind, he hates sightseeing, he has nothing to do with his thoughts and ultimately he can't stand this anymore. He decides to kill himself, on playground, but is stopped by Ken, who sends him away and tells him to keep a low profile. Ray would probably try commit suicide again, but because of chain of hilarious and unexpected events he gets back to Bruges and again meets the girl he went on a date once, Chloe. They walk around the town, they kiss and seem happy. And maybe it could stay like that. Maybe Ray's hell could have become heaven for him, once he dealt with his guilt. But remorse and absolution came in different form. Ray's boss Harry kills him because of his conviction that the person who killed a little kid cannot live. Ray dies surrounded by people he met in Bruges, on a film-set crowded with people in surreal masks, snowflakes falling from the sky. The movie's ending isn't ambiguous as many think - Ray is dead and we as the audience see the last thing he sees.
Colin Farrell's performance is great - he plays Ray with a lot of uncomfortable charm, understanding and sweetness. The viewer feels sorry for him, roots for him but in the end understands the direction in which the movie went. Farrell's won his first golden globe for his role, and it was well deserved.
Ken is much older than Ray, a mentor per se. He likes Ray a lot and disagrees with Harry, for whom he has a personal debt and respect. Ray feels that the 'boy can change and has to be let go'. Few scenes earlier Ken was sent by Harry to kill Ray but didn't do it, although for a second he was close to. Bruges is Purgatory for him. Even though he loves the place and finds it 'a fairytale town' Ken has a task to finish, but he just can't. He changes his views and helps Ray, rescues him. The film's most touching moment is when Ken, shot by Harry climbs up the tower and drops coins in order for Ray to see it. Then he jumps off the Tower and in his last words tries to warn Ray about Harry.
Great and well-known actor Brendan Gleeson was nominated both for Golden Globe and Bafta for his performance, it is entirely different than the one given by Fiennes and Farrell, played more subtly but still in a very impressive way.
And then Harry came along. First he sends Ray and Ken to Bruges, seemingly for nothing, really for achieving Ray's elimination. When things go wrong he has to go to Bruges, city he loved since he was a little boy, place that is heaven for him. He buys a gun and he meets with Ken, who betrayed him. Their passionate exchange of views filled with swearing (which Harry loves) and accusations is the movie's best scene. Ken, accepting his faith peacefully goes with Harry on the top of the tower. Harry's heart melts but he has to stick to his principles - he shots Ken and runs down the tower to kill Ray. And he does. the problem is the bullet reached the midget, whom Harry mistakes for a little boy. Ironic chain of events leads him to put the gun in his mouth on 'the fucking spot' as he previously said and killing himself.
Ralph Fiennes performance is alongside Michael's Sheen in 'Frost/Nixon' and Brad Pitt's in 'Burn After Reading' the most underrated performance of the year. Fiennes appears for the first time physically on 60th minute mark and he's appearance has the force of a hurricane when he destroys the phone in complete, utter and unstoppable anger. Before that we only see telegram from him (filled with juicy remarks) and we hear him during his conversation with Ken when he, in his own way, expresses his surprise that Ray doesn't like Bruges ("how the fuckin' swans can not fuckin' be somebody's fuckin' thing?!'. Fiennes's role is a comedy gold, his delivery of each of his lines is Academy Award-worthy, for me that performance is almost as good as Heath Ledger's in 'The Dark Knight". Fiennes doesn't hit any false tones, he's ruthless yet has his principles, he's funny and dangerous at the same time. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant acting job.
Let's look at a variety of supporting characters now. They bring a certain kind of unique magic to the movie - there is a midget, who picks up prostitutes and believes there's gonna be a war between the whites and the blacks, there's Eilrik, who tried to rob Ray's and now is as Harry puts it 'a blind boy', there's Marie, the owner of a hotel Ray and Ken are staying, brave enough to say 'fuck off' to Harry and finally there's Chloe, charming girl and Ray's love interest, who sales drugs to film producers.
The movie's wonderful, fairy-tale like climate is created mostly by choosing of a setting - Bruges is a small, lovely, medieval town, filled with old buildings and tiny streets. Apart from that it is all because of cinematography - city is shown as a bit asleep, surreal place bathed in mist and romantic lights. Everyone I talked to, who has seen the movie wants to visit that place. That's how beautiful it is.
Another reason for movie's dreamlike atmosphere is terrific score by Carter Burwell, subtle, effective, sometimes slow and sometimes, like in best piece Shootout Part 1 fast and menacing. It is a great shame and as always a huge outrage that music is as underrated as Fiennes' performance.
The story presented in the movie is gripping because of characters' strength and their diversity. The dialogue is witty, funny, shockingly brave at times (like during Ray and Chloe date). As actually are some scenes - Ray hitting a woman with a bottle and large amount of violence. I think movie's courage and daring humor earned it a nomination for best comedy (Golden Globes), award for screenplay (BAFTA) and nomination for best original screenplay (Academy Awards).
Some of the movie symbolism is astonishing too - the magical frog Ray finds in Chloe's apartment, filled with drugs which help him forget his guilt for a second, paintings of heaven, hell and purgatory which provoke a discussion about afterlife, surreal movie with midgets, which mirrors dreaming state of being in Bruges.
To sum up, "In Bruges" is something quite exceptional and unforgettable, the movie mixes drama and comedy, absurd and seriousness, sweetness and violence. Its wonderful charm stays with the viewer long after seeing the movie and some of the movie dialogue has a potential of becoming as quotable as 'Pulp Fiction' or 'Snatch'. Let's hope for Academy Award for screenplay and keep coming back to this film.... (read on) (show less)