I Don’t believe I have ever seen a movie like this before.

In Bruges is a so-called “Action/Comedy” about two hit men ordered to lay low after a bad job. Their hiding spot? Bruges, Belgium. Ken (Gleeson) is quite taken by the medieval town whereas Ray (Farrell) could care less about sightseeing and would rather get back to London. This synopsis plus the trailer may lead you to think this is a typical picture, best to avoid it right? Wrong. It turns out the movie is being advertised as something it’s really not. One only has to see the opening credits to discover that this is not an ordinary film. It opens with several still shots of Bruges put to melancholy, beautiful music. The score maintains this mood throughout, and other than a couple goofy parts, so does the flick.

That’s not to say it isn’t funny. It’s actually quite hilarious. However, the humor is overpowered by sadness. When it’s revealed why the “job” went bad, the movie takes a serious turn, and it takes it perfectly. Ray is a guilty man (you will see why), and it takes a toll on him. He begins to reflect on his moral worth, and when he studies a painting of “judgment day”, Ray asks Ken if he believes in the afterlife. Heaven, Hell and Purgatory which as Ray points out, is for people “who weren’t that bad, but weren’t that great either”. I may be way off, but the film seems to hint at metaphor and depth. Perhaps Bruges is Purgatory? Maybe these hit men are awaiting some sort of judgement. They seem like good people, but they have killed. Are they worthy of heaven? Does meaning well make up for sin? There is a point where Ken seems to regret his past and realizes Ray still has a chance at a good life. Ken would give anything to allow Ray such an opportunity. Maybe it’s too little too late, however. The film manages to genrate laughs as well as heart wrenching moments and strong emotional undertones. All the while we fall in love with the two leads, which is enhanced by the acting.

Farrell again proves he is the least consistent actor in the business. Here, he shows his brilliance, in fact, it’s my favourite of his performances. Gleeson puts in a sensitive, subtle and very sincere quality. When Fiennes shows up as the boss, he nails one of the most interesrting roles of his prestigous career. The supporting cast are great as well.

In Bruges is McDonagh’s first foray into film. Previously a playwright, he could fool anyone who doesn’t know he’s a newcomer. The direction is incredibly impressive, expertly shot and artistically crafted, it’s a masterpiece of the genre. Or, it would be, if I could pick a genre to describe In Bruges.

This is a very dark, even disturbing movie. I was heartbroken and moved. Quite close to perfect, with three Oscar-worthy performances. Undeniably unique, In Bruges defies any convention or tired plot point both in it’s screenplay as well as in its direction. This is the first great movie of 2008, and I loved every second of it.