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In Bruges 
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Post In Bruges
I have a question for James

Why did you only award In Bruges 2.5 stars?

Of course it isn't one of the greatest movies ever made or even in 2008 but it merits far outweigh it's detractions, especially for a feature debut. The dialogue is very witty, but not in the kitsch way that Juno was. Farrell turned in what is arguably the finest performance of his career, backed up by surprisingly subtle support from Fiennes, Gleeson, and Poesy. I concede that the ending was an easy out but you did not waver in giving Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, 3 stars, and that entire plot was overly implausible even in a fantasy film. To conclude, I would have to say that Bruges deserves 3 stars at least, and I would like to know why you think otherwise.

P.S. I'm sure there will be those who will say I should read the review to find my answer but I assure you all that I have read it multiple times and that I'm looking for something deeper than what can be found in a 1000 word essay.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:31 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
I couldn't believe James' rating for In Bruges either. Really surprised me. I loved that movie, especially the brilliant screenplay and Farrel was fantastic.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:58 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
I think you're paying far too much attention to the star rating system. People are always going to have different opinions when it comes to movie period. JB obviously didn't feel strongly enough about it to warrant a firmer recommendation. But two and a half stars for In Bruges isn't bad. If JB had given it a one star rating then there would be possible terms for debate and argument. As it stands I don't really see the problem.

Personally I care more about what JB has to say about the movie than the stars he hands out to it.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 10:17 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
In Bruges was one of my favorite films of 2008. I love almost everything about it: the performances, the wonderful use of the city itself, and the way the screenplay used various techniques from drama. Perhaps above all, I loved the way the film balanced showing the flaws in an honor-based worldview with subtle allegory, complete with biblical parallels.

At the same time, I think JB’s review is well written. It’s evident that his enjoyment of the film was disrupted by what he saw as clunky contrivances in the climax’s resolution and in a few other places as well. I was disturbed by how mechanically the plot was wrapped up too, but it didn’t interfere enough with my overall experience to affect my impression of the film’s quality. The plot had some improbable moments. People will overlook improbability in a script if a film is good enough. I thought In Bruges was (and clearly I’m not alone in this), But JB clearly did not.


Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:43 am
Post Re: In Bruges
Actually I think 2.5 stars is generous. I was really anticipating this movie but it was quite painful to sit through, and I thought Farrell was really bad at playing the funny guy. Obviously people disagreed as he won the golden globe


Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:59 am
Post Re: In Bruges
I actually just saw this movie last night. While I enjoyed it, I don't have a problem with JB giving this 2.5 stars. I think he's right about the ending being a huge let down. To me, that is unforgivable for a movie that is all about building towards that end. The acting is great, the comedy gets laughs, and it is a very good movie until the end. I'd personally give it 2.5-3 stars out of 4.


Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:09 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
Quote:
Farrell turned in what is arguably the finest performance of his career, backed up by surprisingly subtle support from Fiennes, Gleeson, and Poesy.


I would have phrased that as Gleeson turned in a typically excellent performance, backed up by a surprisingly subtle performance from Farrell, and an entertainingly OTT performance from Fiennes.

Gleeson quietly stole this entire movie. As he tends to do. See, for example, "I Went Down", which has him playing another Irish gangster.


Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:32 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
Gleeson quietly stole this entire movie. As he tends to do. See, for example, "I Went Down", which has him playing another Irish gangster.[/quote]

I agree about Gleeson. He was great in this. I'll have to check out I Went Down, never heard of it before but I've liked him in anything I have seen him in.

I thought the movie was a nice surprise with Farrell really impressing me as well.


Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:39 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
Quote:
I'll have to check out I Went Down, never heard of it before but I've liked him in anything I have seen him in.


Say no more:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0126344/

Gleeson plays a dim witted gangster with a younger sidekick. Very different kind of movie (a bit like an Irish Tarantino flick). Very funny. Beware, much profanity in the following clips:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfOEphFFKK4&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Z_6VV8qgY&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7ezEfx4ICw&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3GXQ-k7x5I&feature=related

...also, he was pretty good in the Snapper:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108170/

Gleeson was playing leads in smaller movies before he started getting character roles in Hollywood, and he is never less than watchable.


Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:27 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
I mean, it's James's opinion of the movie. Just because he gives it 2.5 stars, that doesn't mean that it's going to be that way for everyone. Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars, even if he gives anything 4 stars nowadays. I personally loved In Bruges, so you're not alone in enjoying it.


Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:05 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
bitfled wrote:
Quote:
I'll have to check out I Went Down, never heard of it before but I've liked him in anything I have seen him in.


Say no more:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0126344/

Gleeson plays a dim witted gangster with a younger sidekick. Very different kind of movie (a bit like an Irish Tarantino flick). Very funny. Beware, much profanity in the following clips:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfOEphFFKK4&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Z_6VV8qgY&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7ezEfx4ICw&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3GXQ-k7x5I&feature=related

...also, he was pretty good in the Snapper:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108170/

Thanks for the links! I did see the Snapper and thought he was good in that as well

Gleeson was playing leads in smaller movies before he started getting character roles in Hollywood, and he is never less than watchable.


Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:48 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
I thought 2.5 stars was fairly generous. I know most of the people following this discussion liked In Bruges a lot, but it might help explain JB's luke warm rating to understand why someone else wasn't crazy about the movie. In Bruges is an ambitious movie. It is difficult to make a movie about stupid and corrupt people without the film being dumb and amoral. In Bruges has tried to address both of these problems—the stupidity and the amorality. Because the two hired killers and their boss are not the sharpest tools in the shed, the movie tries to create comedy to hold our interest. Some viewers will like the black humour, but I did not. Part of the problem is that dumb dialogue is often not witty. For example, we have dialogue somewhat like this: "Guy 1: Bruges is a shithole! Guy 2: It's beautiful. Maybe you should wait til you see it. Guy 1: It's still a shit hole." Sometimes the humour attempts come from the sound track. As the hitman with some redeeming value pulls his bleeding body across an old stone floor to try to save someone, we hear tinkley, cheesy music to belittle his effort. Funny?

While the humour attempt fails, the other attempt works. The older of the two killers has a crisis of conscience and refuses to kill. Unfortunately, this does not happen until the first half of the movie has dragged on with no moral compass, no interesting characters, and no discernable plot. But when the older hitman refuses to kill, the movie becomes a drama of substance. Will he have the resolve to hold fast to his decision? How will he deal with his raging boss?

But just when the drama starts to work, the attempts at black comedy again undermine everything. So when the crime boss and the younger hitman are set for a gun fight in a small Bruges hotel, their concern about harming a pregnant woman leads them to this deal: Count to 3, then the young guy will leap out of a second-storey window into the canal, and the boss will run out the front door and try to shoot him. Insipid.


Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:40 am
Post Re: In Bruges
JIMBELL wrote:
I thought 2.5 stars was fairly generous. I know most of the people following this discussion liked In Bruges a lot, but it might help explain JB's luke warm rating to understand why someone else wasn't crazy about the movie. In Bruges is an ambitious movie. It is difficult to make a movie about stupid and corrupt people without the film being dumb and amoral. In Bruges has tried to address both of these problems—the stupidity and the amorality. Because the two hired killers and their boss are not the sharpest tools in the shed, the movie tries to create comedy to hold our interest. Some viewers will like the black humour, but I did not. Part of the problem is that dumb dialogue is often not witty. For example, we have dialogue somewhat like this: "Guy 1: Bruges is a shithole! Guy 2: It's beautiful. Maybe you should wait til you see it. Guy 1: It's still a shit hole." Sometimes the humour attempts come from the sound track. As the hitman with some redeeming value pulls his bleeding body across an old stone floor to try to save someone, we hear tinkley, cheesy music to belittle his effort. Funny?

While the humour attempt fails, the other attempt works. The older of the two killers has a crisis of conscience and refuses to kill. Unfortunately, this does not happen until the first half of the movie has dragged on with no moral compass, no interesting characters, and no discernable plot. But when the older hitman refuses to kill, the movie becomes a drama of substance. Will he have the resolve to hold fast to his decision? How will he deal with his raging boss?

But just when the drama starts to work, the attempts at black comedy again undermine everything. So when the crime boss and the younger hitman are set for a gun fight in a small Bruges hotel, their concern about harming a pregnant woman leads them to this deal: Count to 3, then the young guy will leap out of a second-storey window into the canal, and the boss will run out the front door and try to shoot him. Insipid.


These are some well-articulated points, but I respectfully disagree. I viewed this as a comedy first with some unexpected dramatic turns throughout the movie, rather than as a drama that used comedy to hold the viewer's interest. Saying that, I thought the dialogue was hilarious. Since comedy is so subjective, I can see where not everyone would be laughing, but many of the best lines are so subtle that it merits repeated viewing. Plus most of the action was unconventional (who's ever seen anyone blinded by a blank before?), almost like how the Coens use action in their movies.

I don't think In Bruges viewed its characters as being dumb either. Sure, Colin Farrell made a big mistake, but it was an accident and it causes most of his internal struggle thereafter. Brendan Gleeson's character in turn responds to him by seeing a potential future that Colin Farrell could be throwing away, and he takes on a father-figure role for the rest of the film (the scene in the art gallery really shows the dynamic between both characters' conflicts). Even Ralph Fiennes was somewhat complex, playing a stubborn hit man with conflicting "principles". These hit men may have had questionable morals and used a fair amount of profanity, but I don't think that this meant they were "dumb" by any means.

One final note about the comedy (SPOILERS, kinda): I don't think the scene you're talking about where Brendan Gleeson drags himself up the tower was meant to be funny at all. For me it was the unfunniest moment in the film, and perhaps the most poignant. The music (by Carter Burwell I believe, who often uses unorthodox music in movies and perhaps explains why this song may have sounded "cheesy" to you) sounded like a triumphant Irish march as Gleeson committed one final redemptive act in response to his life of killing. I thought the music fit perfectly there, almost like a theme song for Gleeson, and I don't think it belittled his actions at all.

Throw in a midget and some horse tranquilizers, and it was my favorite film last year. But again, I can see why it may not be for everyone.


Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:35 am
Post Re: In Bruges
El Duderino wrote:
JIMBELL wrote:
I thought 2.5 stars was fairly generous. I know most of the people following this discussion liked In Bruges a lot, but it might help explain JB's luke warm rating to understand why someone else wasn't crazy about the movie. In Bruges is an ambitious movie. It is difficult to make a movie about stupid and corrupt people without the film being dumb and amoral. In Bruges has tried to address both of these problems—the stupidity and the amorality. Because the two hired killers and their boss are not the sharpest tools in the shed, the movie tries to create comedy to hold our interest. Some viewers will like the black humour, but I did not. Part of the problem is that dumb dialogue is often not witty. For example, we have dialogue somewhat like this: "Guy 1: Bruges is a shithole! Guy 2: It's beautiful. Maybe you should wait til you see it. Guy 1: It's still a shit hole." Sometimes the humour attempts come from the sound track. As the hitman with some redeeming value pulls his bleeding body across an old stone floor to try to save someone, we hear tinkley, cheesy music to belittle his effort. Funny?

While the humour attempt fails, the other attempt works. The older of the two killers has a crisis of conscience and refuses to kill. Unfortunately, this does not happen until the first half of the movie has dragged on with no moral compass, no interesting characters, and no discernable plot. But when the older hitman refuses to kill, the movie becomes a drama of substance. Will he have the resolve to hold fast to his decision? How will he deal with his raging boss?

But just when the drama starts to work, the attempts at black comedy again undermine everything. So when the crime boss and the younger hitman are set for a gun fight in a small Bruges hotel, their concern about harming a pregnant woman leads them to this deal: Count to 3, then the young guy will leap out of a second-storey window into the canal, and the boss will run out the front door and try to shoot him. Insipid.


These are some well-articulated points, but I respectfully disagree. I viewed this as a comedy first with some unexpected dramatic turns throughout the movie, rather than as a drama that used comedy to hold the viewer's interest. Saying that, I thought the dialogue was hilarious. Since comedy is so subjective, I can see where not everyone would be laughing, but many of the best lines are so subtle that it merits repeated viewing. Plus most of the action was unconventional (who's ever seen anyone blinded by a blank before?), almost like how the Coens use action in their movies.

I don't think In Bruges viewed its characters as being dumb either. Sure, Colin Farrell made a big mistake, but it was an accident and it causes most of his internal struggle thereafter. Brendan Gleeson's character in turn responds to him by seeing a potential future that Colin Farrell could be throwing away, and he takes on a father-figure role for the rest of the film (the scene in the art gallery really shows the dynamic between both characters' conflicts). Even Ralph Fiennes was somewhat complex, playing a stubborn hit man with conflicting "principles". These hit men may have had questionable morals and used a fair amount of profanity, but I don't think that this meant they were "dumb" by any means.

One final note about the comedy (SPOILERS, kinda): I don't think the scene you're talking about where Brendan Gleeson drags himself up the tower was meant to be funny at all. For me it was the unfunniest moment in the film, and perhaps the most poignant. The music (by Carter Burwell I believe, who often uses unorthodox music in movies and perhaps explains why this song may have sounded "cheesy" to you) sounded like a triumphant Irish march as Gleeson committed one final redemptive act in response to his life of killing. I thought the music fit perfectly there, almost like a theme song for Gleeson, and I don't think it belittled his actions at all.

Throw in a midget and some horse tranquilizers, and it was my favorite film last year. But again, I can see why it may not be for everyone.

Great post, and I largely agree with you. In Bruges is definitely a comedy before anything else; a dark comedy, yeah, but still a comedy.

And one of the things I liked about In Bruges was precisely how it dealt with questions of morality. In fact, every major character had a sense of honor or decency which they tried to live by. Their moral code is what creates the film’s conflict in the first place. Because they live outside the law, a sense of honor is important to every character. Without it their world would fall into chaos.

That’s why Harry is so unbending in his principles; he embodies what it means to live in a world where you have to rely on honor and not mercy. But he’s not a cruel person; he wants to make sure that Ray enjoys his last days alive (the entire purpose of the trip to Bruges), and Harry would never even dream of harming a pregnant woman or child. Ray doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth. He’s not very reflective and he doesn’t seem to understand himself very well. It’s arguable whether he grows throughout the film or not. It seems to me he does, but his last monologue might cause this to be called into question. Ken is different. He’s more thoughtful than the other characters in the film. He tries to justify his profession at first but seems uncomfortable with how he lives. His father-son relationship with Ray eventually causes him to reassess his values. He ultimately chooses mercy and love over Harry’s eye for an eye mentality. I thought that his sacrifice was very affecting. The film almost seemed to suggest that he was a kind of Christ-figure for Ray at various points.

And despite what I’ve written above, I still understand why a certain portion of the audience won’t enjoy this film. Despite how well it may be written, the plot is contrived enough to turn many people away. In Bruges has flaws and a viewer’s good will to this movie will be determined by how significant he or she finds these flaws to be.


Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:42 am
Post Re: In Bruges
Ratel wrote:
And despite what I’ve written above, I still understand why a certain portion of the audience won’t enjoy this film. Despite how well it may be written, the plot is contrived enough to turn many people away. In Bruges has flaws and a viewer’s good will to this movie will be determined by how significant he or she finds these flaws to be.


I completely agree with your comment here, Ratel. I actually wrote my own review of the film (click here to read it) and mentioned the contrivances that some seem to be a problem. Despite them, I still really enjoyed the movie.


Thu Mar 05, 2009 1:09 am
Post Re: In Bruges
I thought it was great. 3.5, in my very humble opinion.


Thu Mar 05, 2009 11:06 am
Post Re: In Bruges
Great posts there El Duderino and Ratel.

Maybe In Bruges gets so many mixed reviews, maybe it raises questions like why James would give it only 2.5 stars, because it is not clear. I don't mean it has to spell everything out and hit us over the head with it. But when viewers can argue pretty convincingly that the killers are dumb (as Ratel wonders, did Ray learn anything?) and yet other viewers believe the killers are sharp and crafty . . . maybe you got confusion. Pick a host of other movies and you won't find such fundamental disagreement. Just one: Is the Clint Eastwood character a racist in the first have of Gran Torino? Duh. Yet he's not a simple character.

When some viewers can hear the "tinkly" music as a guy crawls in agony across the floor on a hopeless mission as belittling, and other viewers can hear it as a triumphant score . . . maybe the film makers were not clear enough.

I realize that the above comments may lead some to the usual claim that everyone is entitled to see the movie any way they want--I saw Sound of Music and it was a grusome horror flick. But that is not helpful here. In Bruges is, I think, fundamentally ironic. As Wayne C. Booth says in The Rhetoric of Irony, irony only works if the other party (e.g., us viewers) knows what the foundation or "truth" is. For example, if I say, "Great post, Ratel!" am I sincere or sarcastic? On an internet forum like this, you cannot know when I first say it. But when you read a couple of paragraphs, you see that I treated Rafel's critique with respect, and you figure that I was forthright rather than ironic.

This is, I think, what In Bruges does not do very well. When you hear the "tinkly" music, you first response might be that it is ironic, black humor, making fun of the guy's noble but fated efforts. But then you might think, no, Ken has been the moral compass in the middle of the movie, so the strange music must be serious. But what else in the movie suggests that the tinny music is actually a triumphant anthem. There should be something, but I cannot remember it. So . . . the movie does not give us the foundation to stand on so that we can decide with confidence whether the scene is ironic or not. We decide for ourselves. This rather arbitrary deciding not only leads to wildly disparate views but also to a kind of fatigue for some viewers--who may then give it a mediocre rating.


Sat Mar 07, 2009 2:46 am
Post Re: In Bruges
Great post, JIMBELL. ;)


Sat Mar 07, 2009 9:27 pm
Post Re: In Bruges
I think you have a couple of valid points. I agree with you that In Bruges might be too fatiguing for viewers. A lot of devices the film uses would work well in drama but don’t always translate well on screen. There’s a lot to take in, and I agree that it’s often difficult to judge the tone. It’s not merely that the film is ironic, but that the film sometimes has several layers of irony. The fact that the film veers so widely between comedy, tragedy, and other genres doesn’t make judging what’s on screen any easier.

But I don’t mind this so much in movies (or in books or drama as well). A certain amount of ambiguity can make a film more interesting. I’d argue that in certain scenes, In Bruges allows viewers to have alternative views of what is taking place that may be totally opposed but equally valid.

But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here, at least regarding Ken’s jump off of Bruges’ belfry. There is no “tinkly” music playing during Ken’s struggle; or at least the music is not meant to appear like that. In fact, the song that is playing is a very old and very well known Irish folk song, Fáinne Geal an La. The English lyrics are by a poet and contemporary of Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh. The poem is called "On Raglan Road." I don’t know who is performing the music in the film, but it’s a very sad song, perfectly appropriate to such a sad moment in the film.


Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:06 am
Post Re: In Bruges
I had no plans to see this but after reading the devisive comments it seemed like a good 2-hour investment.

I say ignore the nay-saying: this movie is wonderful. Colin Farrel brought something to the role that he's never even shown a hint of prior to this. Incredibly touching, strangely sweet movie. If I made lists of top tens then this would retroactively find its way onto 2008's in one of the top three positions.


Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:05 am
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