[Movie Review] In Bruges

In Bruges

Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Martin McDonagh

Genre: Thriller

Cert: 18

Released: 2008


Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are two very different people.  They both kill people for a living – working for Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) – but have little else in common.  Ken is older, has been a killer for a long time but enjoys tranquillity and sight-seeing.  Ray is new to the game, is easily bored and has a habit of getting himself in to surreal scrapes.  

When a hit in a London church goes wrong they flee to Bruges in Belgium for a fortnight and are told to await a call from Harry.  While Ken enjoys the serenity of the city, Ray gets involved in ludicrous disagreements with American tourists and angsty midgets.  Things pick up for him when he meets Chloe (Clémence Poésy) on the set of a Dutch movie shoot.  With both men now happy to stay in Bruges, it seems their two weeks will pass satisfactorily.  But Harry has news for them and soon the peaceful city will become bullet-ridden and blood-stained.  

It takes a little while but when “In Bruges” finds its feet, it’s irrepressible.  The awkward opening – dominated by Farrell’s Irish brogue – soon gives way to some darkly comical scenes as Ray and Ken, along with the viewer, become acquainted with the city.  Much credit goes to writer-director Martin McDonagh who has created a gangster movie in the ilk of “Layer Cake” and “Sexy Beast” but yet one which feels fresh and original – his Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay (and similar awards from BAFTA, Phoenix and the British Independent Film Awards) underlining this.

Gleeson and Farrell were both deservedly nominated for Golden Globes (with the latter winning).  Farrell bounces around the screen early on with what seems to be adult ADHD but before long the script allows him to expand his performance, shedding the quirkiness and introducing haunted and emotional sides.  Gleeson is as masterful as ever, one of those actors who always seem effortlessly on the money.  

Ralph Fiennes plays the violent but principled gangster who is not impressed with the behaviour of his hitmen.  I haven’t seen much of Fiennes since his “Schindler’s List”, “Quiz Show” and “Strange Days” run about 15 years ago (less said about “Red Dragon” the better) and he is almost unrecognisable with his thick cockney accent and cropped hairstyle.  His supporting role is played to perfection, balancing his violent ethics alongside some delicious dark humour.  

While you can probably call a few of the major plot turns they don’t by any means damage what is an incredible 100 minutes or so.  “In Bruges” is one of those special movies that doesn’t come along too often and simply can’t be missed.


[Movie Review] Minority Report

00222_001Starring: Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Steve Harris, Kathryn Morris, Samantha Morton
Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 12
Released: 2002

It’s not often that Spielberg treads thin critical ice (no, I didn’t watch “Hook”). So when the dream hook-up of Spielberg and Cruise was announced last year, saliva was generated in record amounts on the lips of drooling cinema-goers. “Minority Report”, based on a short story by science fiction writer, Philip K Dick (previous stories converted to celuloid include “Blade Runner”), is a futuristic action movie dealing in the concept of ‘pre-crime’.

In 2054, the pre-crime experiment has eliminated murder in the DC area for the previous six years. Director of pre-crime, Lamar Burgess (Sydow – “Judge Dredd”, “Awakenings”), is looking to send pre-crime nationwide via a national referendum. But the very concept of pre-crime raises serious constitutional issues. Using the visions of three gifted individuals known as ‘pre-cogs’, detectives can obtain specific information about future murders and are able to stop them before they are committed. The introduction of pre-crime came six months too late for Detective John Anderton (Cruise) who mourns the abduction, and probable murder, of his son. With his marriage breaking up as a result, Anderton throws himself into his work and is one of the main reasons for its continued success.

However, despite the statistics, pre-crime has its doubters, and one of them is Detective Ed Witwer (Farrell – “Tigerland”, “Harts War”) whose obtrusive observation is either one of general concern for the constiutional questions surrounding pre-crime or else a fixation on taking Anderton’s job. Anderton’s rightful claim that the system is ‘never wrong’ comes back to haunt him as he is indentified by the pre-cogs as being repsonsible for the future murder of Leo Crow, a man he doesn’t even know. Convinced of his own future innocence, Anderton goes on the run to try and find answers but is pursued by his own team, now led by Witwer. Using his knowledge of the system to avoid detection for as long as possible, Anderton tries to buy enough time to find answers to his main question – is there a flaw in the system?

Off the bat, I’ll tell you that “Minority Report” is a terrific movie. Based on, but greatly expanding, a short story by Dick, Spielberg has gone all out to create a science-fiction experience that makes you think as well as blowing your mind with sharp and inventive futuristic touches – the freaky spy-spiders, retina recognition sensors that trigger personalised advertising in the street, interactive video screens that can be controlled by the wave of your hand and ultra-cool video-newspapers.

Spielberg has poured an awful lot of storyline into the 140 minutes that the movie runs to and the frenetic pace and cliff-hanging action sequences are exhausting in the extreme. He’s one of the best directors in the business and he proves it time and time again with a number of great scenes including a thrilling pursuit of Anderton through the back alleys of DC and some real cringe-moments that will make the faint-hearted turn away from the screen.

It’s another notable turn from fast-rising star Colin Farrell who excels as the FBIs slick trouble-maker. Although not as demanding as his quality turn in “Vanilla Sky”, Cruise again does a good job, playing the confident cop with an emotional chink in the armour. Max von Sydow offers solid support as his pre-crime mentor.

“Minority Report” is full of great ideas, numerous twists and oustanding visuals and even though I suspect that the storyline doesn’t stand up to in-depth scrutiny, that’s no reason to miss one of the years top movies.