In Bruges (McDonagh, 2008)

Welcome to Bruges, where the architecture is pretty, the beer is good, and the hitmen are… philosophical?! Then again, they’re played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, so a level of sophistication is to be expected. But this is also bracingly funny, the humour coming at unexpected intervals, and delivered perfectly by all involved. Farrell’s neurotic showing is a winner from the very start, but it’s compounded by a deeply tragic backstory, the tremendous weight of which he nails in his portrayal of Ray’s desperate search for redemption. I’ve seen some of his later performances, but this one is still miles above the others.

Gleeson is his straight man, yet that’s not a negative at all. He’s an actor who regularly plays them, and he always manages to give them a tremendous amount of gravitas. And Ken is such a richly tapestried character that Gleeson hits a home run in that department. From the moment Ralph Fiennes’ Harry gives him the “instructions,” Gleeson fires on all cylinders to craft one of his absolute best performances. That climax at the belfry is particularly sublime stuff.

In Bruges, to me, is tremendous in both construction and execution, and it makes a strong case for being one of this century’s best films. I’m rather mystified that it’s not talked about more—surely, whenever people think of Colin Farrell’s greatest moment, they naturally turn their thoughts to this? Or is it simply because Martin McDonagh has not been such a prolific director? Well, I that is sure to change when Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is released.