In Bruges (2008)
By: Devon B. on December 24, 2013 | Comments
Universal | Region B | 2.35:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 107 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
In Bruges Blu-ray
Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy
Screenplay: Martin McDonagh
Country: UK, USA
Brendan Gleeson has been the cause of a lot of strife in my household. Gleeson's a great, engaging actor with a knack for accents. This is what's caused problems for me, because I rarely hear him speaking with his normal accent. In Bruges was the first time I heard him using an Irish accent, but he still didn't sound like he does in interviews. This started me on a quest to work out what part of Ireland he was really from without ever taking four seconds to look up that information online. I also lack even a basic grasp of Irish accents' regional origins, aside from a simple North/South divide, so I frequently queried my partner about Irish accent variances. Eventually my obsession, combined with my stubborn refusal to do any genuine research, rippled out from Gleeson and I started asking about anyone from Ireland. A year later the phrase, "What part of Ireland is he/she from?" was banned from my house entirely. And I still don't know where Gleeson's from.

The movie is set in Bruges, hence the title. Two Irish hitmen are visiting the area waiting for some heat to die down after a botched job. One of the men becomes enamoured with the historic city, the other is incredibly bored and wants to leave as soon as possible. As the former gets frustrated with his disinterested companion's dismissive attitude towards the scenic location they find themselves in, the latter manages to get involved in a series of events that are so unusual they're almost surreal. Their boss orders a job that divides his two men, and it's a gig that's almost guaranteed to paint the quiet city red.

In Bruges is another hitman focused black comedy, but it's a really fuckin' good one. It might never have been made in a world where there'd been no Pulp Fiction, but it keeps things fresh enough that it feels totally unique. Bruges itself has a fairy-tale quality rarely seen in live action cinema, and this creates an intriguing back drop for a story about professional killers, but the most important factors to the film's success are Gleeson and his co-star Colin Farrell. I wasn't a fan of Farrell's prior to In Bruges, but his performance here helped me appreciate the qualities that made him a star and made me willing to check him out in other, non-Hollywood, productions. Both Gleeson and Farrell are magnificent in their respective roles, conveying troubled consciences with a sincerity usually lacking in cinema. The pair are also achingly funny when they play off each other, their impeccable comedic timing turning a witty and often gleefully un-PC script into a hilarious tour-de-force. Despite some dodgy morals both the characters are incredibly likeable, and while their plight goes beyond what the average person will ever experience, the emotional turmoil they feel is easy to identify with. Also on hand is Ralph Fiennes, playing the boss who lives by a strict code that leaves no wiggle room. Fiennes gives a solid performance, and his history with Gleeson's character is carefully rounded out without ever becoming overt, but his character is nowhere near as compelling as Gleeson or Farrell's, which makes sense since they're the leads. I wouldn't have liked In Bruges as much if Gleeson hadn't been cast, but even if it had been some other Irish guy playing the part there'd be plenty to enjoy in the film.

The first time I saw In Bruges I mistook its greatest strength for a major weakness, but in order to discuss that I'll have to cover the film's ending. I'll try to be somewhat coy, but even a simpleton should be able to work out what I'm hiding, so those that haven't seen the film should skip this paragraph. I was loving In Bruges right up until the climax, but after the ending I felt like I hadn't enjoyed the movie. What happened was writer/director Martin McDonagh, along with one member of the cast, had created a character that I actually cared about. I was disappointed with the character's outcome, and that dampened by satisfaction with the movie overall. I can't even remember the last time I connected that strongly with a character, which may mean it's never happened before.

It took me a good long while to revisit this movie, but when I rewatched it I was able to appreciate the whole film for the brilliant bit of cinema that it is. What finally called me back to In Bruges was that it's an Xmas movie. That's right, this super awesome movie is another kooky Xmas flick, the perfect cure to Xmas blues. Hitmen, a dwarf and aggro Ralph Fiennes work together to make a unique Xmas experience, and there have been few actors that display chemistry on par with what Gleeson and Farrell have here. Their team up is an absolute must see, and while In Bruges ultimately might not exactly make the holidays merrier, it's sure as fuck better than It's a Wonderful Life.
The Disc
I'd read that the UK release of In Bruges was 1080i, but thankfully this issue was either misreported or remedied for later pressings because my copy is 1080p. There is edge enhancement, some macroblocking and a bit of trailing, so the transfer's not the greatest, but most of the time the film looks good. There are portions of the film designed to look a bit soft to capture the ethereal qualities of the location, which isn't a look conducive to eye popping detail. As a result sometimes the image isn't spectacular, however when the lighting allows for it there's plenty of detail present. Colours can be a bit strong at times, but this mostly looked to part of the design of the film and not a fault with the transfer. The audio comes in either an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or a Canadian French DTS 5.1 mix. The French track seemed fine when I sampled it, but naturally wasn't as clear as the lossless English track. A lot of the movie is people talking, so this Blu-ray was never going give home theatre systems a work out. The sound is clear and vibrant, there just isn't a lot of call for the surrounds to kick in. Things heat up a bit in the finale, but they don't stay heated very long. The extras on the disc are deleted scenes, a gag reel and a boat tour, all of which are non-anamorphic. The boat tour is footage of a canal ride in Bruges while facts roll past. The deleted scenes run for nearly 20 minutes and I can understand why some of this had to go, but there is more comedic dynamite in here. The gag reel is just that, but unlike many a gag reel this one has some funny moments.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Martin McDonagh has given us the greatest Xmas gift of all, the gift of Gleeson in a dark yet playful leading role. McDonagh's bro also saw the wisdom of making Gleeson the star, casting him as the lead in the twisted comedy The Guard. This Blu is not a bells and whistles release by any means, but I bought the In Bruges Blu-ray at a stocking stuffer price so I don't think that's much of a problem.
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