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The Crying Game – Review

4 Jan

Back in 1992 a movie came out called The Crying Game and it succeeded at causing a major stir among audiences which made it one of the most talked about movies in recent history. Critics and journalists were having a field day writing about the secrets of the movie, and it ended up being nominated for 6 Academy Awards and winning for Best Screenplay. Writer and director Neil Jordan worked very hard to get this controversial film made and it wasn’t always an easy task. At certain points it just seemed downright impossible. As history shows, The Crying Game did get made and has become something of a classic even if it isn’t something that is discussed too much anymore. I’d like to get some of that discussion started up again, so let’s get started.

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After Jody (Forest Whitaker), a British soldier, is covertly abducted by a group of IRA members, he is taken back to their hideout deep in the woods. Over the course of a few days, one of the IRA members, Fergus (Stephen Rea) befriends Jody and learns a lot about his past and his girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson). After tragedy befalls the group, Fergus flees to London acting on a promise he made to Jody to check on Dil. The two quickly meet up in a bar and form a relationship which weighs heavily on Fergus’ conscience. As Fergus wrestles with his beliefs and motives, to of his IRA colleagues, Jude (Miranda Richardson) and Maguire (Adrian Dunbar), arrive in London and force him into another job that involves the assassination of a judge. His two lives from the past and present proves to be a volatile mixture that will lead to an inevitable murderous outcome.

The Crying Game is a movie that takes so many different themes and mash them together to create a hodgepodge of intriguing subject matter. Like the characters in the movie, these themes often clash together which causes a lot of the drama in the film. At first, the movie seems to be solely focused on the tension between Britain and the IRA. The barrier that breaks between Jody and Fergus in the first third of the movie is interesting to see because it shows that if you take away the labels of “British” and “IRA,” what’s left is just being human. The next part of the movie focuses on identity in multiple ways. Without getting into the realm of spoilers, there’s a huge focus on who Fergus is, was, and who he wants to be. This all happens when he meets Dil and introduces himself as Jimmy. He pretty much changes his appearance and name to become someone else, which is threatened when the IRA finally catches up with him. There’s so much more thematic depth that I’d like to talk about, but that would be at the risk of ruining parts of the movie.

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To go along with the deep thematic material of The Crying Game is an incredibly well realized screenplay by Neil Jordan. The characters that are written come with many layers, and each layer is slowly peeled back as the movie goes on, even if the character is only in the movie for a short time. These dimensions are best explored during the many conversations characters have with one another as the plot unfolds. The first half hour of the movie is pretty much different interactions between Fergus and Jody, which has a huge impact on the characters, especially with Fergus who is the main character of the movie. These two men should be enemies, but simple conversations turn them into close friends. This kind of dialogue also opens up an moral ambiguity that stirred up some controversy when this was released in the UK. In 1992, it wasn’t a popular thing in Britain to have a movie with a sympathetic and relatable IRA member as the protagonist.

The Crying Game is one of those movies that has a history that’s almost as interesting as the movie itself. Neil Jordan made a pretty good name for himself with his more independently produced films at the start of his career, but as his bigger budgeted efforts in the United States came along, things started to get a little bit shaky. Jordan saw The Crying Game as his chance to earn back his good reputation and feel like he was making films that were worth it again. The problem was that no producers or distributers seemed to share his enthusiasm about the screenplay. Jordan and his producer, Stephen Woolley, went all over the place asking for funding, and they finally found this funding in the UK, Ireland, and Japan. When the movie was released, it became a sensation. Critics warned audiences not to spoil the movie and it remained in theaters for much longer than anyone anticipated. The cherry on top of it all was an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

The Crying Game is a gem from the early 1990s and has unfortunately seemed to disappear from mainstream audiences. That’s really a shame since the film deals with timeless themes of violence, identity, and humanity in ways that were very controversial, especially for a movie released in 1992. This isn’t just a throw away thriller that is forgotten about 15 minutes after seeing it. This is a movie that stays with you days after you’ve seen it and has so many layers to peel away at to see the whole picture and the message the creators were trying to convey. This is a rich, intelligent, and rewarding movie that I certainly recommend.

Final Grade: B+

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Panic Room – Review

28 Jul

I have quite a love/hate relationship with movies that are labeled as “thrillers.” It’s not an easy genre, that’s for sure, since it relies on suspense and intensity rather than cheap scares or action and violence. Panic Room falls very nicely into that category, and luckily director David Fincher and writer David Koepp have proven themselves to be proficient at pretty much every genre put on the screen. Moving at a brisk pace and featuring a lot of surprises throughout the length of its run time, Panic Room is not only just an entertaining thriller, it’s one that will leave you thinking about all of its twists, turns, characters, and subtext.

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Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is a recently divorced single mother looking for a new house in the Upper West Side of New York City. She soon finds the perfect house, and moves in with her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart). On the night they move in, however, their house is broken into by three robbers: Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Junior (Jared Leto), and Raoul (Dwight Yoakam), who all expected the house to be empty. Luckily for Meg and her daughter, their new house has a super secure panic room which they run into for safety while they think of a plan to get the intruders out of the house. While their options become limited, the terror only increases when it is revealed that what the three robbers are looking for is buried in the floor of the panic room.

So, like I said before, an essential element of thrillers is to feature something that is inherently fearful. That’s why there’s different kinds of thrillers. Psychological thrillers explore strange horrors of the mind, political thrillers show the paranoia and dangers of politics, but I’m not sure where exactly to place Panic Room. It’s a movie that explores something that I think is the most frightening thing of all, and that is something or someone getting into your house to cause harm to you or anything in your life. That’s why movies like The Strangers and Funny Games stick with me so much. This is another one that can go hand in hand with those movies, even though I’d say this one is a bit more Hollywood and more entertaining. It still relies on intense elements of suspense and basic human fears that I think we can all relate to.

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Another really strong point of this movie, and surprisingly for me I think, is how incredible each and every character is. I thought that it was just going to be Meg and Sarah vs a trio of generic bad guys, but that isn’t true at all. Everyone in Panic Room is their own character and don’t resemble or come close to another. I can credit this not only to Koepp’s writing, but also to Fincher’s directing and all of the actors, who performed their parts very well. Possibly the only negative I can see in the performances is that Leto kind of became a cartoon at points, but I still had the most fun with his character because of that. So can it really be a negative if I still enjoyed myself? We may never know.

This is also one of those movies that can be enjoyed at its surface, but I dare say it’s even more fun to dive into the subtext and try to pick it apart. You may be surprised with what you find in Panic Room. I’ve seen analyses of the film that say it’s a story of feminism, technology, and/or modern medicine. I can definitely see all three, but I have to say that this is a movie about feminism more than anything else. Foster’s Meg Altman, with no help from anyone else, takes on the people that invaded her home possibly threatens the life of her and her child. It takes a smart approach with its stances on its themes, which makes it even more of a respectable film.

Panic Room is yet another success in both David Fincher’s and David Koepp’s ever growing body of work. It works as a horror film, a psychological thriller, and a film that explores deeper themes that may be expected. Everyone gives incredible performances, all with the aid of Fincher’s expert direction and Koepp’s lean and taut screenplay. For any fans of the thriller genre, or really movies in general, Panic Room is a must see.