In the Arts and Entertainment section, we’ve seen movie reviews for plenty of big-name movies, but I wish to honor those with lesser recognition: independent movies.
I want to ease into this mini-series with an indie film that you may have already heard of: The Crying Game.
This 1992 film was directed by Irishman Neil Jordan and takes place during Ireland’s fight for independence from the British Crown. It stars Stephen Rea as Fergus, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) member, and Forest Whitaker in one of his infamous roles as Jody, a captured British soldier.
This film initially tanked when released in the U.K., but did very well across the pond in the U.S. It is infamous for its insane plot twist, which shocked audiences at the time of release. I, of course, won’t tell you what that is. You’ll just have to watch it yourself. Be warned, though, it completely threw me for a loop.
This movie is both a war story and a love story, and it balances both elements well. Seeing the development of Fergus and Jody’s unlikely friendship and its inevitable demise is memorable for its simplicity and the way it stings at the end. The treatment of Dil’s character is also handled well, especially for that time period. All characters, save the ruthless IRA members, are multi-dimensional, just like real people, which a lot of writers struggle to do effectively. Maybe that’s why it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1993. It’s an original story unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, which is something that makes it special.
As far as technical elements, I find the cinematography to be smooth and seamless. I wish there was greater shot variety, but every shot in the film is precise and purposeful. Mostly you want camera moves to be unnoticable or else be taken out of the story. This film made the viewing experience pleasant, especially since the movie is older than most Xavier students. You’ll also notice that during the aforementioned plot twist, the camera focuses on Dil and her emotions rather than Fergus, which is incredibly forward-thinking. Choosing a shot angle, whom to focus on, focal length—it’s all difficult and can make or break a film. This cinematography doesn’t make the film, but it’s far from breaking it.
The acting is also phenomenal. Rea in particular is convincing, and he handles Fergus’ complexity and emotions as you’d expect though the ups and downs of this movie. Fergus is a complex character with different motivations, and Rea juggles those like a true professional.
Jaye Davidson, who plays Dil, is typically not thought of as an actor, and now works in the fashion industry. Considering the importance of Dil’s character, the decision to go with someone who isn’t known in the acting world was a thoughtful choice. Davidson is phenomenal in this role.
Whitaker, despite being American, is an interesting choice for Jody. Aside from his nationality, he’s not what you’d picture when thinking of an English soldier. I was not fully convinced by him. I had a hard time seeing him as an English soldier who wanted to fight the Irish. Then again, this film thrives off of defying expectations, so maybe that’s the point. Aside from that, Whitaker added depth to the character. From Jody’s good natured humor to death-fearing sobs, Whitaker put more into his character that it might have otherwise lacked. He balances out my expectations with his overall performance. This movie has been one of my all-time favorites since I watched it a few years ago. It highlights an important and formative time in Ireland’s history, has phenomenal acting and features themes and plots that are still important 28 years later. And here’s the good news—it’s on Netflix.