Grant Mitchell

What Edison did for the lightbulb, taking an already invented object and improving it, is what Martin McDonagh has done for dramas and comedies through his creations on stage and in film. 

It is a means of competition and industriousness that has progressed humanity to the point at which it is at now. State-of-the-art medical instruments and treatments, self-driving cars and films that bear no singular genre and blend the best part of human wit with the worst parts of human morality. 

Martin McDonagh first forayed into professional storytelling back in the 90’s with a number of successful outings as a playwriter. 

Very quickly, McDonagh separated himself from other writers with his brazen approaches to very nuanced topics and his characters with both atrocious mouths and lovable souls. 

McDonagh’s films have been a continuation of this very same cavalier approach to storytelling through presentational mediums. 

Just look at his filmmaking resume. 

McDonagh’s first feature film was 2008’s “In Bruges,” a dram-edy about a hitman that accidentally kills a little boy and is hiding out in Bruges, Belgium. While the description may sound sobering and pretty dark, the film is anything but. 

Mostly, “In Bruges” follows Colin Farrell’s character around Bruges engaging in alcohol-fueled comedic arguments and observational comedy. Along with this levity from Farrell and the ensemble is also a great deal of internal and external strife Farrell’s character faces over the accidental killing of the little boy on his last job. 

Then look to his next film, “Seven Psychopaths,” about an alcoholic screenwriter, again played by Colin Farrell, dealing with writer’s block while trying to write a film about psychotic killers. 

Ironically, this film ultimately sees Farrell’s character writing about killers who turn out to be his friends in characters played by Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell. Which sounds like a plot that could go heavy in drama-thriller or wild comedy, right? 

That’s the beauty of all of McDonagh’s work. Granted, there are some films and written works by him which are definitely more dramatic, “Three billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” for instance. Regardless of the specific genre classification of his films, McDonagh continually produces a smart, high quality product that isn’t constrained to one or two genre’s parameters. 

Instead, McDonagh writes stories that fit the weird and random nature of life. 

Some days we’ll see a morose and awful topic on the news and immediately our mind will think of some odd ball and possibly hilarious thing that has nothing or everything to do with the tragedy we just saw or heard. 

Life isn’t cut and dry when it comes to what we think, feel, like, or even laugh at. 

Instead of disregarding that fact and making preachy or superbly dramatic and thought-provoking cinema, McDonagh makes life movies. 

At times preposterous and unrealistic, yes, but closer to what real life is than a lot of what we see in theaters. 

Perhaps McDonagh’s films and works of theatre are too crass or in your face, that’s fine, everyone has their own taste. But that doesn’t mean McDonagh’s work is any less impactful, real, or thought-provoking than any of the other movies that get released in a given decade. 

Nor does that negate the fact that McDonagh’s films have provided audiences with some of the best acting performances and most intelligent screenplays we have ever seen in filmmaking history. 

Grant Mitchell is a junior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at gmitch16@vols.utk.edu.

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