Monday, July 07, 2008

Monologue: Ray's Remorse

Monday Monologues. Please note: The following post contains a small *spoiler* --a reveal that happens 25 minutes into the movie --that's also listed in every synopsis...;) In Bruges.

In Bruges begins with a voiceover by Ray (Colin Farrell), a hitman whose boss has asked him to hide out in quaint tourist-friendly Bruges, Belgium. His previous job went all kinds of wrong. He is to await further instructions there. Ray's partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson) dutifully takes in the art and the sightseeing and Ray, lost in his as yet undefined remorse grumbles and whines about their "vacation".

After a couple of reels of film, the reason for Ray's grief is made clear in flashback. And Ray, while looking at art with Ken, starts asking him theological questions. They wander to a park bench discussing violence and consequence which initally prompts amusing banter about when a murder is self defense or not. Ken once killed a lollipop man who was merely trying to save his brother (who he was there to kill). He feels bad about the act still but the man had come at him with a bottle. Ray, always eager for distractions from his own remorse, argues that Ken was justified. If it he had attacked him with only bare hands, say, the murder would have been uncalled for.
Ken: Well, technically your bare hands can kill somebody, too. They can be deadly weapons too. What if he knew karate, say?
Ray: You said he was a lollipop man.
Ken: He was a lollipop man.
Ray: What's a lollipop man doing knowing fucking karate? How old was he?
Ken: I'm just saying... Fifty.
Ray: What's a 50 year old lollipop man doing knowing fucking karate?! Was he a Chinese lollipop man? Jesus Ken. I'm trying to talk about...
[long pause]
Ken: I know what you're trying to talk about.
As happens so often in the movie, Ray's face starts to sour again as the weight of his guilt crushes him all over again. (Farrell is truly expressive in this role) The tone shifts quickly from comedy to drama, the mood of In Bruges falling as rapidly as each new shower of remorse.

Ray: I killed a little boy. You keep bringing up a fucking lollipop man.

I know I didn't mean to but because of the choices I made and the course that I put into action a little boy isn't here anymore. And he'll never be here again. I mean here in the world, not here in Belgium. But he'll never be here in Belgium either, will he? I mean he might have wanted to come here when he got older. I don't know why.

And that's all because of me. He's dead because of me. And I'm trying to --I'm trying to get me head around it but I can't. I will always have killed that little boy. That ain't ever going away. Ever.

Unless... maybe I go away.
"Don't even think like that" is his partners response. The most unexpectantly poignant thing about In Bruges is the way the film weaves in the details of this friendship between two killers. [What is the cinema's fascination with hitmen about exactly? A topic for another time.] Ray's paternal instincts and aged matter-of-fact demeanor are continually rubbing up against Ray's restless immaturity and loss of innocence to both comedic and dramatic effect. Ken merely wants Ray to be happy and live a good life. Even if he needs to find a new line of work. It's as simple and paternal as that.

In Bruges is wonderfully written by Martin McDonaugh and though it's his first feature length film, he seems pretty confident behind the camera too. This hitmen in hiding tale has got some neat plotting as well as some predictable beats that still manage to surprise. Those are the best kind of twists... the kind that make all kinds of sense, the kind where, even if you saw them coming... they didn't arrive in quite the way you expected. So, add this one to your rental queues if you haven't yet seen it. The quality of the writing shouldn't be a surprise to those familiar with Martin McDonaugh's plays (The Pillow Man and The Lieutenant of Inishmore among them) or his Oscar winning short (Six Shooter). If there's any justice in the world In Bruges will at least be talked up for Best Original Screenplay nominations when the year winds down. Not that there's any justice in the world...


JA said...

So happy you dug the film, Nat. I was so happily surprised by it. Colin's so terrific - everybody is, but him especially. He's so underrated as an actor, I think. I'm glad the tabloid BS seems to be in the past; this year he's given two fine performances (although they're sort of similar) in this and Cassandra's Dream, and he's stayed out of the gossip rags for the most part, so hopefully the attention that should be paid to him can be now. He's really so good.

Arkaan said...

I just saw it yesterday, and can I get a big ole' ditto on that.

What I love is that McDonagh is actually curious where those bullets go. So often in action films, when a gun is fired but missed it's presumed target, the bullet no longer exists. That's not the case here. Given how violent his plays tend to be (for those wondering, the prop list for The Lieutenant of Inishmore actually includes "dismembered corpses" and "three dead cats"), it's not much of a surprise. And yeah, Farrell is actually great here (which is a surprise).

Anonymous said...

I Loved this film. Its my favorite film of the year. It has an extremely original script with great performances and non cliche characters. It is a black comedy that deals with the flaws and principles of people. Awesome movie.

Rural Juror said...

This is my #5 film of 2008 so far. It was marketed so badly, but I really appreciated the skill at work. Brendan Gleeson was FANTASTIC and Colin Farrell has rarely been better, but I agree that the screenplay is the star.

Eric said...

I had to keep poking my brother to go see this, someone who normally likes smaller films. And the phrase you used a few posts ago about it "deceptively simple but intricately enjoyable" is pretty much perfect. I went in looking for some dark comedy, but nothing moving, and I come out with this dense (good way) movie, that carried much more than the premise suggested. Great film.

17 Year Old Blogger said...

Went to a Q and A of this film and Martin McDonough was there and he just seemed like a genius and someone who will keep writing hit after hit. I thought I would be disappointed by the "twist" in the beginning since it was supposed to be a comedy but McDonough knows how to make tragedy funny. The screenplay is great and if there is any justice, the film will get recognized for Original Screenplay and the actors will also get noticed. Also, in one scene when Gleeson and Fiennes were talking in that bell tower about Ferrell did anyone else think of Harry Potter? Lol. And the girl Farell liked was in the 4th HP film as well. It was like a Goblet of Fire reunion. Fiennes, Gleeson and the girl (I forgot the actresses name) all made their HP debut in #4. But anyways, a great movie. Can't wait for McDonoughs follow up.

17 Year Old Blogger said...

^Feel like an idiot. Spelled McDonaughs name wrong.

Kurtis O said...

Yay! In Bruges! Glad you liked it. I just happily bought the DVD. I'd love to see it in the original screenplay race as well, though I'm sure the arrival of something a little more Juno-ish will kill any and all chances of a win. That's right, I said win. This movie deserves it - one of the year's best.