In Bruges is a 2008 Irish black comedy film written and directed by Martin McDonagh. The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two hitmen in hiding, with Ralph Fiennes as their gangster boss. The film takes place—and was filmed—within the Belgian city of Bruges.[5]

In Bruges was the opening night film of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.[6] The film opened on limited release in the United States on 8 February 2008. It premiered at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on 15 February 2008, and later went on full release in Ireland on 8 March 2008. The film opened 18 April 2008, in the United Kingdom.

Farrell won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for the film, while Martin McDonagh won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.


 [hide*1 Plot


During his first job, rookie hitman Ray accidentally kills a young boy. He and Ken are sent to Bruges by their employer Harry Waters. Ray is still wracked with guilt over the boy's death. One night, while observing a film shoot, Ray strikes up a romance with Chloë, a local drug dealer and thief moonlighting as a production assistant. On a date in a fancy restaurant, Ray gets involved in a fistfight with a couple who he believes are from the United States. Later that night, Chloë's ex-boyfriend Eirik threatens Ray with a handgun loaded with blanks, but Ray disarms and blinds him.

Ken finally receives a call from Harry, who orders him to kill Ray on the principle that the killing of a child—even accidentally—is unforgivable. Ken is given a handgun by Harry's Belgian contact and tracks Ray to a park. As he sneaks up behind Ray, he notices Ray is about to shoot himself and stops him. He then confesses to Ray what he'd been ordered to do (although Ken denies that he intended to go through with the execution). While the two discuss the situation, Ken takes Ray's gun and convinces him to leave the city and the business. Ken then calls Harry, reveals his insubordination and location, and abruptly hangs up. An enraged Harry immediately heads to Bruges.

Ray is arrested for assaulting the couple—who turn out to be Canadian—and escorted back to Bruges before his train has travelled far from the city. Chloë bails him out, and the two share a drink on the market square beneath Bruges' belfry. Ken and Harry also meet for a drink nearby, passing by Ray and Chloë without noticing them. At the top of the carillon tower, Ken declares that Ray deserves a chance at redemption, but refuses to fight Harry, as he loves and respects him for his honour and generosity. Harry, while furious, takes pity on Ken and shoots him in the leg rather than in the head. When Eirik, passing by, spots Ray and Chloë and informs Harry of Ray's location, Ken fights with Harry for Ray's sake, and is shot in the neck. Harry descends the steps to confront Ray, leaving Ken seriously wounded. Ken drags himself back to the top of the carillon tower, but cannot see anything below due to fog. After scattering coins to clear the area below, he jumps and lands in the plaza, living just long enough to warn Ray of Harry's arrival. Ken's gun is shattered in the fall.

Ray flees back to the hotel for his gun, which Ken had stashed in a drawer in their room. Harry arrives soon after, but Marie, the pregnant owner of the hotel, refuses to allow him up the stairs. Shouting through the stairwell, both men agree that Ray will try to flee from the back of the hotel, and Harry will run after him and shoot him if he can. Ray jumps on to a passing boat, dropping his gun accidentally. He looks back to see Harry drawing down on him from a bridge, and despite the long range, Harry fires and hits Ray in the abdomen. Harry continues pursuing the wounded Ray through the streets before stumbling onto the film set, where dwarf actor Jimmy is in costume as a schoolboy. Harry shoots Ray three more times and in the process inadvertently shoots Jimmy in the head with the expanding ammunition, effectively decapitatinghim. Mistaking Jimmy's headless body for that of a child, Harry commits suicide on his principle. The gravely wounded Ray is lifted onto an ambulance as he sees Marie, Eirik and Chloë. Once in the ambulance, Ray considers prison or death as sufficient recompense for killing the boy, but then muses that, perhaps that for him, hell consists of staying in Bruges forever. The film ends with him stating his desire to live.


  • Colin Farrell as Ray, an Irish hitman wracked with guilt from his first assignment
  • Brendan Gleeson as Ken, an older and more experienced Irish hitman
  • Ralph Fiennes as Harry Waters, a violent crime boss with unbending principles
  • Clémence Poésy as Chloë Villette, a Belgian criminal and production assistant who is also a drug-dealer
  • Jordan Prentice as Jimmy, an American drug-addicted dwarf actor
  • Thekla Reuten as Marie, co-owner and operator of the hotel
  • Jérémie Renier as Eirik, Chloë's ex-boyfriend and ex-partner in crime
  • Anna Madeley as Denise, a Dutch prostitute picked up by Jimmy
  • Elizabeth Berrington as Natalie, Harry's wife
  • Eric Godon as Yuri, Harry's Belgian contact who sells illegal weaponry

Sights of Bruges[edit]Edit

[1]The Last Judgement by Hieronymus Bosch[2]The Flaying of Sisamnes by Gerard David

At one point, Ken and Ray visit the Groeningemuseum and see Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Last Judgment. Actors in the "film-within-a-film" wear costumes resembling elements of the painting, creating a symbolism of Bruges as heaven, purgatory, and/or hell.

In the museum, Ray views the painting The Flaying of Sisamnes (1498) by Gerard David.

Cultural references[edit]Edit

The plot has similarities to Harold Pinter's one-act play The Dumb Waiter.[7] The film also contains many references to Don't Look Now,[8] including the claim by Chloë that the film-within-a-film is almost a homage to it.

Ken is seen watching the beginning of Orson WellesTouch of Evil, which has a three-minute continuous shot of a car bombing. This precedes a six-minute tracking shot of Ken speaking on the telephone with Harry, where Harry instructs Ken to murder Ray. The layout of Harry Waters' desk and chair in his office at home are very similar to the layout of the office in the Corleone family home in The Godfather. There is a nod to the 1985 television version of The Dumb Waiter, starring Kenneth Cranham and Colin Blakely, when Ken and Ray use the names Cranham and Blakely to check into the hotel.


Home media[edit]Edit

The film was released on DVD in region 1 on 24 June 2008; region 2 on 11 August 2008; and region 4 on 21 January 2009.[citation needed] It was also released on Blu-ray on 27 January 2009; and in region 1 on 13 July 2010.[9]


In Bruges: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Carter Burwell
Released 5 February 2008
Recorded 2007
Genre Classical


Length 44:08
Label Lakeshore Records
Carter Burwell chronology
No Country for Old Men


In Bruges


Burn After Reading


In Bruges: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a soundtrack to the film of the same name, released by Lakeshore Records and featuring the score of Carter Burwell as well as additional music found in the film. The soundtrack was released on 5 February 2008 in the United States and Canada.[10]

All music composed by Carter Burwell, except where noted.

Track listing
No. Title Performer(s) Length
1. "Prologue"   1:17
2. "Medieval Waters"   1:40
3. "The Little Dead Boy"   1:46
4. "St. John the Gambler"   Townes Van Zandt 3:03
5. "The Last Judgement"   1:52
6. "View from the Tower"   1:04
7. "My Suicide Your Homicide"   1:38
8. "Brandy Alexander"   The Walkmen 2:30
9. "Save the Next Boy"   1:19
10. "Ray at the Mirror"   1:19
11. "Walking Bruges"   0:36
12. "The Magic Frog"   0:50
13. "Der Leiermann"   Andreas Schmidt and Rudolf Jansen 3:40
14. "Harry Walks"   1:21
15. "Dressing for Death"   1:11
16. "The Kiss Walk Past"   1:04
17. "On Raglan Road"   The Dubliners 4:15
18. "Thugs Passing in the Night"   1:13
19. "Shootout Part 1"   2:10
20. "When He's Dead"   1:08
21. "Shootout Part 2"   2:44
22. "Principles"   1:25
23. "I Didn't Want to Die"   1:35
24. "2000 Miles"   Pretenders 3:38
Total length: 44:08


Box office[edit]Edit

In Bruges was released in limited theatres on 8 February 2008, and opened in 28 theatres in the United States, grossing $125,541 on its opening day and $459,575 on its opening weekend, ranking No. 25 with a per theatre average of $16,413.[11][12] On its second weekend, it was released in 112 theatres and moved up to No. 22 and grossed $970,211, with a per theatre average of $8,663.[13][14] By its third weekend it moved up even more to No. 21 and made $738,318 from 163 theatres it was released, with $4,530 per theatre average.[15][16]

Critical response[edit]Edit

The film received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 82% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 160 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10.[17] At Metacritic, the film was given an average score of 67, based on 34 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[18]

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film a four-out-of-four-stars rating, saying "This film debut by the theater writer and director Martin McDonagh is an endlessly surprising, very dark, human comedy, with a plot that cannot be foreseen but only relished."[19] Tasha Robinson of The A.V. Club gave the film an "A-", praising the performances of the main cast: "Farrell, having successfully made the transition from overexposed-yet-underutilized action-thriller star to one-film-a-year artiste, gets a lot to work with, and he sells it all flawlessly, moving convincingly from offhanded, prickly asshole mode to nervous young lover to disintegrating martyr," and that "then again, all the leads are perfectly cast, and they help turn a light farce with thriller overtones into something deeper and sweeter." About the film itself, she added: "When it's funny, it's hilarious; when it's serious, it's powerful; and either way, it's an endless pleasant surprise."[20] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and praised the two leads, stating that "Brendan Gleeson is brilliant as Ken ... along with his partner in crime, Ray, played by Colin Farrell in probably his best performance." About the film, she added that it's "sharply written, superbly acted, funny and even occasionally touching."[21] Damon Wise of Empire magazine gave the film four out of five stars, writing that "with In Bruges, the British gangster movie gets a Croydon facelift. It may not be new, but it's a wonderfully fresh take on a familiar genre: fucked-up, far-out and very, very funny."[22]

John Anderson of the Washington Post gave the film a positive review, writing that "those who know McDonagh's work know a vein of darkness will run deeply through the comedy. It has seldom been darker. Or funnier. He has made a hit-man movie in which you don't know what will happen and can't wait to find out. Every movie should be so cliched."[23] Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a positive review; he praised Farrell's performance, stating that "in the past few months, with Cassandra's Dream and now this, we've found out something about Farrell. He's not a matinee idol, and he's not a suave or heroic leading man. He's a terrific character actor, and he can go to low places that suave heroes can't risk, like anguish, self-hatred, embarrassment, utter confusion and buffoonery." About the film, he added that it's "witty and lively, with a soul to it, as well."[24] Dana Stevens of Slate magazine also praised the performances of the two leads: "Farrell, who just played a remarkably similar tortured killer for hire in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, finds just the right tone for this twitchy, funny, emotionally volatile thug; for once, he seems to know exactly what movie he's in. So does Brendan Gleeson, the big, shambling, sad-eyed Irish actor known to American audiences mainly for his role in the last two Harry Potter movies." She continued about the film: "A jolly mess of a movie. Overplotted, choppy, and contrived, it nonetheless has a curious vitality that makes you wonder where McDonagh will go next."[25] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, writing that "the acting is top-notch. Colin Farrell, who seems to be gravitating increasingly toward smaller films, effectively channels his manic energy. He and Brendan Gleeson display chemistry in the Odd Couple vein, occasionally giving rise to instances of humor. Ralph Fiennes plays one of the most twisted roles of his career."[26]

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C+", indicating a mixed review; she praised McDonagh's directing, stating that "he's a specialist in constructing satisfying, live-wire dramas of violence that crash up against despair, in upending his characters' miseries with moments of twisted humor, and in sustaining a writing voice that roars with a particularly Irish robustness of obscenity." She also added that "neither star is sloppy, but both are loose and mellow – a couple of pros who know they're the whole show."[27] Ella Taylor of Village Voice also gave the film a mixed review, stating that "Bruges may be the movie's rather too-long-running joke, but Farrell's shaggy brow is easily the most entertaining thing in Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's first foray into the crime caper."[28]


In Bruges was nominated for seven awards by the British Independent Film Awards,[29] including the Douglas Hickox Award (Debut Director), Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film and Best Screenplay, the latter of which it won.[30] It was also nominated for two Satellite Awards: for Best Actor (Brendan Gleeson) and Best Film.[31]

In November 2008, Martin McDonagh won the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild (IPSG) award for Best Film Script for the film.[32]

The film was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and both Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell were nominated for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy,[33] which Farrell won at the 66th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, broadcast on 11 January 2009.[34] McDonagh won the Best Original Screenplay award at the 62nd British Academy Film Awards in February 2009.[35]

The film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay award at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009, but lost to Milk.[36] In the same year, it won the Best International Film award at the 6th Irish Film & Television Awards.

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