You know what? It’s just damned nice to see In Bruges get a little Oscar love. It’s a dark comedy that came out in February: pretty much every word in that sentence should kick it out of the running for the Oscars. Heck, a superbly reviewed flick by an admired director like Zodiac couldn’t even get any traction with a February release date and yet In Bruges sneaks into a major category (even if it is its only nomination) and picks up some Golden Globes love along the way. In a nomination morning besmirched by Dark Knight exclusions, the In Bruges nod went a long way to redeem the Academy’s reputation from the brink.

It’s been interesting going back to watch early season releases again. A year ago In Bruges shocked me and made me chortle. Revisiting a film meant to be shocking and funny usually diminishes both attributes, and it did this time, but that can have the effect of peeling back some of the immediate reactions to reveal the gold within. I had the exact same reaction when rewatching Forgetting Sarah Marshall, for what it’s worth.

If we accept that In Bruges is never going to reach that Best Picture/Director sphere just due to its nature, the Original Screenplay nod for writer/director Martin McDonagh is the most appropriate. Even conceptually this film has so much going for it: hitmen laying low in Belgium, one character’s distaste for the city while he wrestles with some serious demons, touches on themes of honor and fate. This is a film that involves not one but two protagonists entering, even orchestrating, showdowns they know will likely lead to their demise because they feel like a showdown is part of their duty. Then one man goes to kill another just to end up preventing him from committing suicide instead. And there’s a racist little person. How in the world is a movie like that supposed to work? And yet it does, splendidly.

The performances are quite terrific across the board. Ralph Fiennes was in everything this year and he’s a foul-mouthed delight here. I have to think Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson might have had nomination shots if the film came out in a more traditional time for Oscar contenders. Both are great and Gleeson is just amazing. I also enjoyed Clémence Poésy as Farrell’s love interest and Jordan Prentice as the little person.

Great technical work too. Pairing the traditional Irish song “Raglan Road” with the late clock tower scene works brilliantly (and a musician pal of mine loved the music playing over the final scene). It also has a lot of neat shots such as the boat ride down the canal, the final scene as it enters the Boschian hell of the film set, and the unbroken six-minute shot of Gleeson as he fields a call from Fiennes (of course he’s watching the famous opening tracking shot to Touch of Evil when the phone rings).

Anyway, In Bruges is a pretty great film that will find its way into my DVD collection eventually. And when February 22 rolls around, I think I’ll be rooting for it for the upset.

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