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‘The Crying Game’ (R)By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 18, 1992
From the opening notes of Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman," Neil Jordan's "The Crying Game" ventures into such exquisitely unique territory that you feel giddy from the pleasure of being allowed to travel along.
The film -- which is one of the most challenging, surprising films of the year -- begins at an Irish fairground, where a working-class English soldier named Jody (played by the great young American actor Forest Whitaker) is seduced by a foxy member of an IRA group (Miranda Richardson) and then kidnapped by her colleagues as a hostage to be exchanged with the British for one of their own.
Immediately, the prisoner strikes up a desperate relationship with his primary guard, Fergus (Stephen Rea), a dedicated but rather softhearted Irish rebel who can't help but respond emotionally to his flirtatious enemy, who at best guess has about 24 hours to live. Fergus is a man with a simple philosophy of life; he's a realist and a romantic cynic, something like the tough but honorable antiheroes Bogart used to play, and who does what he has to do -- even if it means killing Jody -- but not without conscience or humanity.
During those 24 or so hours, the two men share stories and become friends. They become, in fact, something more, like soul mates, so that when the prisoner is dispatched, Fergus takes up his life, traveling to London and tracking down Jody's girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson), whose picture he had seen in the dead man's wallet. Compelled by motives that are not entirely clear (even to himself), Fergus begins to court and then fall in love with Dil.
The lovers couldn't be more star-crossed. (The producers have asked the press not to reveal just how the couple are at odds.) Suffice it to say there are definite problems, but Jordan's touch is so gracefully gentle that, against all odds, we believe in the couple's continuing relationship. In doing so, Jordan and his cast discover emotional states that I've never witnessed on the movie screen before -- delicate, ambiguous, sometimes inscrutable emotions that lift "The Crying Game" far above its thriller genre.
Just what is it about? The bartender at the Metro, the club where Jody and Dil used to go, sums it up best when he shouts out the rhetorical question, "Who knows the secrets of the human heart?" That's Jordan's turf here, his lab. And "The Crying Game" is his boldest, richest work yet. From the performances by Rea, Davidson and Whitaker, to Jordan's endlessly original script, to Anne Dudley's melancholy score, and Lyle Lovett's closing rendition of "Stand by Your Man," "The Crying Game" enthralls and amazes us. It deserves to be called great.
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