Fiction: Exploring the Tough Decisions, Vicariously

I watched In Bruges last night while Denisa was whisking up her thousand loaves of bread. This was a movie I’d heard a lot of good things about, in a vague sort of a way. I knew it was a dark comedy about hit men, so I went in expecting something along the lines of a Grosse Pointe Blank for some reason. Or maybe Get Shorty (two films I’ve really enjoyed). Films where reality takes a back seat to being cool and having snappy one-liners.

In Bruges is nothing like that. It’s got some really funny parts in it, but it’s more of an art house movie than a mainstream hit. That said, I thought it was a fantastic film. Four stars–I’ll be remembering it for quite a long time to come.

What did I like about it? The basics are all there: great acting (Colin Farrell won a Golden Globe), writing (nominated for an Oscar in best original screenplay), and cinematography (seriously–this was a gorgeous movie on Bluray). It wasn’t predictable at all, and it had a compelling plot. But often for a movie to get to the four star level for me, it needs something more. Something to really wow me.

In this case, the Wow Factor comes from the impossible situations these characters are placed in. Germanic epic poetry was all about this sort of thing. The main characters would be forced to choose between killing their mother or their son. Betraying a friend or betraying a family member. If you set this up in a way that’s believable and not artificial, this can have a very strong emotional punch.

Collin Farrell plays Ray, a hit man who is running from something he’s done. We’re not sure what it is at first, but we know it’s affected him deeply. He’s accompanied by his partner, Ken (Brendan Gleeson–Mad Eye Moody, from Harry Potter). They go to Bruges, Belgium to wait for word from their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes–Voldemort). Ray hates the town. It’s all about sight seeing and beautiful buildings. Ken loves it.

By the end of the movie, you really hurt for these characters and what they’re going through. Some of the things that happened made me really stop and think about what I would do in that situation–how I would handle it. What decisions I would make. Good fiction lets you do that–lets you explore scenarios and learn from other people.

If this were a book, I’d say it falls firmly in the Magical Realism camp. It’s intriguing, thought provoking, disturbing and funny–all at once.

Note–it’s rated R for more bad language than you can choke a horse with, a few very graphic violence scenes, and some drug use. So be warned.

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