12 Days of Christmas: In Bruges

It might not officially be The 12 Days of Christmas, but FILM IN WORDS will still fill your festive viewing schedule with cheer. From beloved movies that have become an irreplaceable holiday tradition to cult and lesser known Xmas cuts that promise to subvert and haunt your holidays, there’s something for everyone all the way up to Christmas Eve.

In Bruges

Words: Brody Rossiter
Twitter: @BrodyRossiter


When a job goes horribly wrong for London based hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray, the pair are forced to lay low in the Belgian city of Bruges by their ruthless and foulmouthed boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Grief-stricken by his murderous actions back on home soil, Ray anxiously wanders the streets searching for the recognisable solstice of the nearest pint or attractive woman, finding the latter in the form of Clemence Poesy’s film set runner, Chloe. Ken attentively sweeps the streets, exploring the many historic and cultural landmarks, while attempting to snap Ray out of his despondent stupor whilst also hopelessly striving to broaden the young man’s horizons.

Bruges’ beautifully preserved medieval architecture, its winding canals and towering spires, all aspects of the picturesque city provide a wonderfully atmospheric and often ethereal environment for Ken and Ray to find themselves sequestered. The ambient hue of Christmas, as it illuminates shadowy alcoves and reflects off cobblestones slick with rain, accentuates the fairy tale locale while providing a clear antithesis to ken and Ray’s increasingly bleak predicament.

Much of the intensely funny and black as night humour is derived from the politically incorrect and distinctly half-witted Ray. Equal parts offensive and well-meaning – his intentions and the consequences of his actions rarely mirror one another – Ray is a solemn passenger of the tragic narrative, and a burden upon Ken both professionally and emotionally. Bizarre meetings with movie star dwarves, Dutch hookers and obese tourists ramp up the awkward laughs, shaping a picture full of emotional turmoil and guilty pleasures that also pulls no punches. Ralph Fiennes’ uniquely maniacal crime boss is a fantastically bombastic addition to the final third of the film; his marriage of blind fury, English arrogance and cold-blooded Cockney heritage is an overlooked marvel on par with any centuries-old Gothic landmark.

Unashamedly distasteful, unflinchingly violent and bubbling with sniggering humour like the frothy head of one of those “gay” Belgian beers that Ray and Ken down in the hotel bar, In Bruges is a seasonal escape that grows increasingly taut and claustrophobic. Constructed from distinctive characterisation, eclectic scoring and a magical European setting, Martin McDonagh’s crime-drama is the perfect getaway from the joys of Christmas time.

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