Stay home, Soldier
The Crying Game
Directed by Neil Jordan
Reviewed by Reihana Mohideen
In the first few minutes, the contradictions dealt with in the film come at you thick and fast. A black English soldier (Forest Whitaker) on duty in Northern Ireland, is lured into capture by an IRA woman soldier (Miranda Richardson) who entices him sexually. The captured soldier soon wheedles friendship out of Fergus (Stephen Rea), his reluctant IRA guard.
He shows Fergus a photograph of his lover Dil (Jaye Davidson) and tries to extract a promise that Fergus will drop in and see her in London. Fergus has the assignment of killing the soldier. But he has a troubled conscience. Can he kill a man he has grown fond of?
And the IRA woman soldier is resentful that she had to use her body to entice Whitaker. Perhaps her task was the most demeaning of all.
After Whitaker's death Fergus shows up in London, tracks down Dil and falls in love with her. Dil is black, beautiful, flirtatious, and a hair dresser by profession. But for the careful observer there are many things about Dil that just don't seem to fit the outside image.
And as Fergus falls in love, and Dil responds, can he live a mortal lie with Dil's boyfriend's death weighing heavily on his conscience?
And then the plot reveals it's secret, which leaves you gasping and laughing at the same time. And the secret? Only the meanest of critics would give that away.
The Crying Game, described in the publicity as a "riveting romantic thriller" is anything but that banal. It challenges on a number of levels — politically you are faced with the dilemma of an oppressed race, through the eyes of the black soldier, carrying out Britain's dirty war against an oppressed nationality. It challenges conscience: can Fergus kill a man he has grown fond of; should the woman have used her body to entice the soldier in the first place; does the end justify the means? And finally the film is challenging sexually.
Does Neil Jordan do a disservice to the struggle for Irish independence in his portrayal of the IRA activists? Is Fergus a mere coward who opts out of the struggle when the going gets tough? I don't think so.
The messages are not purely political; they are far more complex than that. So are Fergus and the other characters. The point is that when the political becomes personal, we can all scramble around in the dark. In fact the film asserts that the political is personal and there are no equal signs between the two. By posing this dilemma the film is both challenging and disorienting. Well worth seeing.