In Bruges (2008)
Playwright Martin McDonagh has been the golden boy of British stage for quite some time, often writing plays with timeless and classic values depicted through contemporary, and often satirized, Irish townlife. He turned to film with his award-winning short Six Shooter in 2006, and he brings with him the brilliant Brendan Gleeson once again as he writes and directs his first full-length feature, entitled In Bruges.
In Bruges is a genre-aware film, meaning that it arises from and embraces traditional genre-elements from both the crime/mafia sub-genre and the pure, hitchcockesque thriller. The remarkable feat is how McDonagh blends it all into this clean and classy piece of film. Subscribing to a tradition of timeless works of art, In Bruges has many of the same traits as great classic literature, from the existential dilemmas, situations and choices the characters (ultimately) have to make, to the large and iconographic scenes which characterize great immortal films.
With the ingenious screenplay, McDonagh verifies that the hype around him as a playwright has been justified. The script has a satisfying unity to it that many other films in this and similar genres cannot boast. But what is perhaps most remarkable, is McDonagh's vision and execution in the director's chair, because In Bruges is arguably the stylistically purest film of the year.
It might seem as if I deem the performances secondary, but that is definitely not the case. Farrell and Gleeson play so well off each other here. The former gets many chances to boast his comedic talent and timing and he grabs every single one of them, but still never strays far from the tragic fate of his character. And Gleeson, whom I have hailed so many times before, strikes something achingly and deeply human again. He is probably the most authentic actor working in films today. He might not have the glamour or the Hollywood factor, but he brings himself so very close to us. Through his two lead actors, McDonagh makes an otherwise clever and funny film deeply touching - and I haven't even mentioned Ralph Fiennes...