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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Michael Fassbender
Liam Cunningham
Stuart Graham
Brian Milligan
Liam McMahon.
Directors
Screenwriters
Enda Walsh
Steve McQueen.
Running Time
96 minutes

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Hunger
Bleak docudrama of Bobby Sands’ IRA hunger strike


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Plot
1981, HM Maze. IRA inmates refuse to wear prison stripes, starting a protest to attain political prisoner status. When it fails, one, Bobby Sands (Fassbender), begins a hunger strike. But is it suicide or martyrdom?


Review
Hunger

What is the grimmest movie ever? Bergman’s Cries And Whispers? Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream? Wayans’ White Chicks? Maybe, but you would be hard-pressed to find a film bleaker than Hunger, artist Steve McQueen’s debut feature detailing the starvation strikes in the Maze prison that resulted in the death of Bobby Sands in 1981 (SPOILER!) .Yet this unrelenting darkness should not be held against it. For Hunger is a powerful, difficult piece that announces McQueen as a singular talent, and Michael Fassbender as an actor of note.

This is as far from bog-standard docudrama as you can get. In the early sections, as McQueen intercuts prison officer Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham)’s routine and inmates Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) and Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon) taking part in a blanket protest, the filmmaking is strangely beautiful and technically stunning. Cells covered in muck are vividly evoked, Sean Bobbitt’s camera lingering over swirly patterns of shit. McQueen punctures the languorous artsy feel with visceral handheld violence when Sands is brutally forced to cut his hair. Later, a shot of a prison guard mopping a urine-filled corridor literally lasts minutes.

The effect of this is to make Hunger’s central set-piece all the more startling. Around halfway through, McQueen gets to grips with the issues in a 22-minute locked-off camera shot in which Sands reveals his plan to go on hunger strike to Father Moran (Liam Cunningham), with both debating the merits and ethics of the protest. Despite bravura performances from both actors, the static camera, rather than funnelling your focus, feels distancing, creating a barrier to the ideas and emotions.

On the other side of this talk marathon, McQueen doesn’t shy away from the minutiae of Sands’ starvation, focusing on the bedsores and the prisoner’s withering frame. Some of McQueen’s lapses into religious symbolism towards the end undo the oblique approach of the first third. But, just as Hunger offers no easy pleasures, it offers no simple analysis, and delivers a gruelling, compelling experience. One you probably won’t want to go through again.


Verdict
Anchored by Fassbender’s turn, Hunger is as much about the personal as the political. The real breakthrough, though, is McQueen, who turns in a film that dazzles and challenges in equal measure.


Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Hunger
Empire Star Rating

RE: Bold, audacious film making but morally questionable

tom line is that these men were murderers, and were responsible for the deaths of many innocent (and not so innocent) people, agree with that.  But in an earnest depiction of group self-abasement are we /b] obliged to think that those men cared, or were inclined to care about innocents?        If you go on IMBD on the forum for this film you'll see a...shall we say "contingent" from the "East" who will readily supply a list of names of those men on that row who were acc... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 08:42, 02 November 2008 | Report This Post


Bold, audacious film making but morally questionable

Its not difficult to be impressed by the visual qualities of Hunger, neither is it by the performances, which are extremely brave and convincing. The violence through out the film put upon the prisoners by the prison officers is about as real as its gets, it makes you wonder how it could be achieved without actually doing it - the director and team clearly deserve all the credit and plaudits they've received in recent months, and I imagine it's a film we'll be talking about for many years to co... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Col.Dax at 00:17, 02 November 2008 | Report This Post


Bold, audacious film making but morally questionable

Its not difficult to be impressed by the visual qualities of Hunger, neither is it by the performances, which are extremely brave and convincing. The violence through out the film put upon the prisoners by the prison officers is about as real as its gets, it makes you wonder how it could be achieved without actually doing it - the director and team clearly deserve all the credit and plaudits they've received in recent months, and I imagine it's a film we'll be talking about for many years to co... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Col.Dax at 00:17, 02 November 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Hunger

L: Mute Here's the Daily Mail's contribution. Exactly what you'd expect from them really. link=http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/artic le-1081911/Hunger-More-pro-terrorist-propaganda.html]ht tp://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-1081 911/Hunger-More-pro-terrorist-propaganda.htmlote] I think Confucius said it best when he said "The Daily Mail are cunts". Word. ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 11:34, 01 November 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Hunger

Here's the Daily Mail's contribution. Exactly what you'd expect from them really. p; www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-1081911/H unger-More-pro-terrorist-propaganda.html ... More

Posted by Mute at 10:00, 01 November 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Hunger

One of the few Irish set, (and certainly the first Northern Irish set film) that didn't make me cringe with embarrassment or feel patronised.  Despite being highly politicised subject matter /i] is not seeded in the plaintive milieu that mars….oh just about every single political Irish film…ever.  (Bear in mind that it can't side-step controversy entirely and that "plaintive” thing is subjective). Steve McQueen keeps a suitably Kubrickian eye of detached mastershots.   In a ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 10:41, 31 October 2008 | Report This Post


This films is AMAZING

I saw this at the LFF. It was an incredible experience. A very powerful film that is as much about the body as it is about the politics. Visceral, brutal yet also beautiful. The best film I've seen this year. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fiercehairdo at 22:19, 29 October 2008 | Report This Post


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