In 1992 when The Crying Game was released, there was no internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, Instagram, Vine, or Tumblr; we relied on Entertainment Tonight for our Hollywood news and Siskel and Ebert’s At the Movies was our only source for movie reviews.
There was no such thing as a spoiler alert and without social media, surprise plot twists in movies were never touched upon by the media; so when The Crying Game hit the theaters in November of that year, everyone talked about the secret, but no one ever revealed what the secret was. Fueled by a mystery and wrapped in a Boy George song, I set out to know “all there is to know about The Crying Game.”
This movie is basically equivalent to the Paul McCartney and Wings song “Band on the Run” in that there are three change-ups, it keeps you guessing, and you never know quite where the movie is going land.
Jody, played by Forrest Whitaker, is a British Soldier captured by the Irish Republican Army – The IRA – and is being held captive in a hostage exchange. Fergus, played by Stephen Rae, is a kind hearted volunteer of the IRA that befriends Jody, but will be forced to kill him if the exchange goes bad, which it ultimately does.
After two long nights, both Fergus and Jody get to know each other and they share stories about life, love and happiness. The soldier, knowing his fate, shows Fergus a picture of his girlfriend Dil, who lives in London, and asks Fergus to seek her out when his fate is realized and tell her that he was thinking about her when he died.
The plans go awry, the soldier gets away but is killed by what the audience is told a Saracen armored car [Script Goof: In reality, a FV-1611 “Pig”] and after an unexpected rain of bullets, we find Fergus, who has changed his name to Jimmy, in London working construction and looking for Dil. The first part of the movie is a classic version of the story “A Guest of the Nation” where in the 1920s, an IRA man made the mistake of becoming friends with the person he had to kill.
So far, no secret.
Dil, played by Jaye Davidson, works in a salon and after she cuts Jimmy’s hair, he follows her to The Metro where Dil and Jimmy use the bartender Col as a conversation middleman. My favorite scenes always played out between Dil, Col and Jimmy:
Dil: He’s still looking, Col.
Dil: Good thing in a man.
Col: An excellent quality.
Dil: Maybe he wants something.
Col: I expect he does.
Dil: Ask him!
Col: Ask him yourself!
The two are attracted to each other and although there are unexpected deceptions between them, mainly that Fergus has killed Dil’s boyfriend, their allure to each other is played out wonderfully in the bar on screen with the assistance of Col.
Midway through the movie, the audience suddenly knows all there is to know about The Crying Game as the film switches gears for the second time and the plot enters a labyrinth of the past and present intersecting in a metaphoric head on collision. The IRA tracks down Fergus for one last suicide mission and Dil is unknowingly in danger, but their love for each other is palpable, and how could it not be? Dil’s personality is dry, witty and unintentionally sarcastic, while Fergus and his doe eyed baby face and a heart not cut out for the violence of the IRA is just as convincing as the innocent bystander as he is the ruthless killer he was never meant to be.
Fergus: The thing is, Dil, you’re not a girl.
Dil: Details, baby. Details.
So far, no secret…not one that I could see anyway.
I love this movie because it conjures up the same feelings I had the night that I saw it; that there was no real secret revealed in the movie and that I still have that same general feeling of Dil’s normalcy in my eyes. Although Fergus’ reaction was somewhat over-the-top, it may have been an expected response from the view of the cisgender writer for that time period. Believe me, no one has ever vomited in reaction to what the TSA refers to as anomalies and what I call everyday life.
This is a love story between Fergus and Dil and the lengths people go through to hide their past and present while protecting their future. There’s hope, sorrow, love and happiness, but most importantly, redemption in The Crying Game as it shows us how people will wear a mask to the bitter end, never quite revealing themselves until it may be too late.
Shot on a budget of approximately $3M, it ended up grossing over $62M and is currently sitting at a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating, but almost 25 years later, The Crying Game holds up better than most films dealing with the same subject matter being made today.
Whatever the secret of The Crying Game is, I will never know, but as the 1992 Roger Ebert review of the film concluded, “See this film. Then shut up about it.”