Some thoughts on the plot of In Bruges:

  • The Opening: Another movie which drops us into the story in media res. A hit has already taken place and Ray and Ken have made their way to Bruges. We soon learn Ray accidentally killed a “kid”. An efficient way to jump start the story and get us involved in it from the get go.
  • The Hook: Ray makes a date with Chloe while a message arrives from Harry who’s pissed.
  • The Lock: From a psychological perspective, I’d say Ray’s ‘confession’: “He’s dead because of me … that little boy … and that ain’t ever going to change, unless maybe I go away”. Paired with the preceding flashback wherein we see the tragic incident, it packs an emotional wallop. So even though it doesn’t really advance the plot or turn it in a significant way, it does act as a turning point in Ray’s transformation.
  • Deconstruction Test: A pair of events back to back. Harry calls and tells Ken he has to whack Ray. Meanwhile, Ray is in bed with Chloe and the ensuing fight with her boyfriend. Things are coming undone in both men’s lives.
  • Transition: Ray’s near suicide attempt which also reveals that Ken was set to put a bullet in Ray’s head.
  • Reconstruction Test: Ken sends Ray out of town and tells Harry he won’t kill Ray, prepares for Harry to come after him.
  • All Is Lost: Ken willingly gives up his life in an attempt to save Ray from Harry, first by trying to convince Harry to let Ray go, then by jumping off the tower and warning Ray that Harry is in town. Symbolically, this is the capstone of Ken’s min-arc. Yes, he’s a hit man, but he’s always demonstrated he is in touch with his humanity. In the end, that and his feelings of empathy for Ray overcome his fear of Harry, but unfortunately leads to his death.
  • Final Struggle: The entire sequence from Ken’s death to Harry’s suicide is one continuous scene: Ray v. Harry.
  • Denouement: On the stretcher going in and out of consciousness, Ray’s last line — “I really hope now I don’t die” — is a sign that he has shifted from wanting to die.

One interesting aspect of the story structure is how it functions as a dual protagonist story. At times, the duo experiences things together, other times they split up, not only geographically, but also in terms of their respective goals and arcs. This is highlighted when Harry tells Ken to kill Ray. After the faux suicide attempt, the focus shifts to Ken with Ray in a secondary position (the train arrest, returning to Bruges). Once Ken dies, the action pivots to Ray.

It’s a tight plot with a lot of compelling pivot points.

Written by

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store