To a modern and more importantly ‘younger’ admirer of cinema in today’s world it is entirely possible that such an individual may be unaware of the torrent of past British film releases made during the troublesome times our nation shared with her closest neighbour. Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan is in particular one such visual storyteller who has tapped into the underlying tensions shared between British governments and the provisional Irish Republican Army in what became coined as “The Troubles” with his magnum opus of writing, direction and motif. The 1992 hit film “The Crying Game” would become one of the key pieces of British cinema that highlighted the then tense political atmosphere to great effect whilst still focusing on what slowly evolves into a touching human drama about difference, similarity and nature.
The film’s narrative focuses on IRA soldier Fergus, played by Neil Jordan favourite Stephen Rea, who helps kidnap black British soldier Jody (Forest Whitaker) during a day at a fun fair in Northern Ireland. The confined soldier eventually begins to develop a bond with Fergus who is troubled by his conflicting feelings about the IRA’s plans for hostage negotiations. In a freak raid on their hidden base Jody is ironically killed accidentally by other British troops with Fergus barely escaping alive. However before his new friend’s demise Fergus swore a pledge to seek out Jody’s girlfriend in London should he die. Once there undercover Fergus meets Jody’s lover Dil (Jaye Davidson) and makes a discovery that changes not only his perception of himself, but also his understanding of the nature of love.
Neil Jordan has always been a master of sexuality in his work. The lurid and often times grotesque imagery show in “Interview with the Vampire” (1994) often out-stages the homoerotic relationship shared between Hollywood dream machines Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and can even at times seem buried under the weight of its vampiric mythos. In The Crying Game such motifs are abundantly present but are instead treated with a much grittier and realistic palette. The harsh realities of the period between IRA foot soldiers and governmental politics help to date the film certainly but provide a uniquely original subplot for the main characters to travel along. Stephen Rea’s perfect casting as the dogged, often scruffy looking Fergus may have accidentally typecast him for similar roles in the future but here we see him as an actor at his most raw. A surprising but also incredibly effective casting choice is in Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of Jody. Whitaker had many a varied slew of characters throughout his career in the 1990’s and Jody could arguably be his most touching. His presence is felt throughout the narrative long after his horrifying and equally realistic death which haunts both Fergus and the audience member in a series of fascinating dream sequences.
The real show stealer however is Jaye Davidson’s performance as Dil. Without going into too much detail for the sake of spoiling the plot, Dil’s onscreen relationship with Fergus is where the comedic heart of the film truly lies. The difficulty that Rea’s character undergoes in upholding his promise to protect Jody’s lover whilst also hiding from his IRA past provides a refreshingly new cinematic dilemma for us to witness. During the third act this particular struggle does not disappoint in its climax and leaves us with a poignant parable which was first introduced by Whitaker’s delicately performed speech earlier on. In short The Crying Game is both fantastic human drama and riveting political thriller. It utilizes a tense and often deadly political situation to great effect whilst still also providing a uniquely original love story in one of the more bizarre situations shown in filmmaking even by today’s standards. Jordan’s career as a director has spanned many genres and achieved great heights thematically but for better or for worse The Crying Game remains his strongest effort in pure original and emotional storytelling.