Filmmakers, do you know writer/director, Paul Osborne? If you don’t, you should. Why? Because he gets things done, no excuses. Osborne is an award-winning filmmaker and major advocate for independent filmmaking. He writes for many film publications and recently offered up great advice to SAGIndie readers on micro-budget producing. Seriously, you should read that – after this. And after you read this and the SAGIndie article, definitely check out his just released feature, Favor.
Osborne embodies the independent spirit Miramax has always championed. Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino started out making films regardless of limitations and look where they are now. Like these great talents, Osborne is making original films with a very distinct voice and manages to market them successfully in a very over-saturated market. So, learn more about this truly independent director/writer/producer as he joins us today to talk about one of his favorite Miramax films.
The Crying Game by Paul Osborne
When people talk about The Crying Game, the conversation always gravitates around the “big twist”, revealed about halfway through the movie. It’s a stunning, severe right angle in the plot, astonishing in its success and completely unforgettable, so much so that it’s come to define the film itself. I won’t disclose the nature of this twist in case anyone reading has managed to avoid knowledge of it, and if you are one of these folks not-in-the-know, get ahold of the film immediately and watch it without speaking to anyone first – because they will spoil it.
While a “big twist” is certainly an asset for any movie to have, in the case of The Crying Game it’s a little unfortunate because it tends to distract from what I feel is the movie’s greatest strength, the unusual friendship that develops between an IRA terrorist (Stephen Rea) and his captive, a doomed British solider (Forest Whitaker).
It’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s seen my latest film, Favor, that I’ve always been drawn to these sorts of unique relationships in movies, particularly ones that exist between two diametrically opposed men. At once both friendly and adversarial, each guy sees a mirror image of himself in the other, identical and yet opposite. Their commonalities can either form a familial bond or ignite extreme violence – and occasionally, the pendulum swings to both extremes, sometimes even simultaneously.
Cinema has a long history of these kind of relationships. Sleuth (1972) is undoubtedly the archetype for me, with Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier in love with the same woman and each bent on fatally outwitting the other. John Woo’s filmography is littered with pairing of cop and criminal, often pitted against each other before bonding to take on a common foe. His Hong Kong masterpieces The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992) both recall the now-familiar tagline, “A Cop, A Killer; Two Sides of the Same Coin”, all culminating with his Hollywood-made blockbuster Face/Off (1997), where the hero and villain not only assume each other’s identities, but actually trade flesh. David Lynch took this even further with Lost Highway (1997), in which an older man with an unfaithful wife literally transforms into a young, attractive adulterer.
The Crying Game covers similar ground, but does so in a unique way that’s at once both gentle and subversive. The film opens with Whitaker kidnapped by the IRA and held for ransom, kept in a dark basement somewhere in the countryside. Rea is charged with tending to him while the ransom deadline approaches, knowing that if the British Army doesn’t pay, Whitaker will be killed. At first Rea tries to keep a dispassionate distance from his hostage, but isolated together for extended periods of time, these two men from opposite sides of a morally ambiguous conflict form a strong, sympathetic bond. This sequence, comprising roughly the first quarter of The Crying Game, nearly functions as its own short film, tragic and brilliantly satisfying all by itself. When Whitaker is finally terminated – a fate both men know full well is coming – Rea quits the IRA and travels to London, fulfilling a promise to look after the felled soldier’s girlfriend, Dil.
What sets The Crying Game apart is that Rea continues his relationship with Whitaker by slowing assuming his role in Dil’s life. In essence he becomes Whitaker, and as Rea discovers secrets about Whitaker’s relationship with Dil, he’s forced to face these same secrets within himself. It’s a terrific use of character, and writer/director Neil Jordan punctuates Rea’s journey with images of Whitaker smirking, almost vengefully, amused that he’s posthumously able to show his former captor that neither man is who they thought they were.
So yes, The Crying Game has a remarkable twist in the middle of its running time, never successfully duplicated or paralleled. But this isn’t the reason it was nominated for six academy awards and earned thirty times its budget at the U.S. box office. The two lead characters, and their complex relationship, is a downright inspiring piece of work.
Paul Osborne is the writer and director of the award-winning thriller Favor, which is now available on Video-On-Demand everywhere. He previously directed Official Rejection, the acclaimed documentary about film festivals, and wrote the cult hit noir Ten ‘Til Noon. Follow him on Twitter.