Hunger (2008)

Hunger is a movie that I have heard from on the Filmspotting podcast when themselves and various critics have put this movie on there top tens of 2008 and 2009. I have heard scant things about this movie, but I didn’t want it spoiled for me. In retrospect, I thought that this movie was magnificent debut film from Steve McQueen. (No, not that Steve McQueen.)

Taking place in Northern Ireland in 1981, the story deals with a couple of inmates at the Maze Prison that are held there by the government. They think that they are political prisoners, but the government doesn’t seem to think so. The prisoners are under a blanket/no wash protest until they get political prisoners status.

The story follows all side of the controversial moment by looking at the lives of prison officer Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), who is afraid of being murdered. He checks under his car for bombs, looking over his shoulders for assassins, etc. He is one of many guards that are taking the prisoners out one by one and beat them up for smuggling contraband into the prison. His knuckles become bloodier as the protests goes on.

Next, the action focus on a new Irish Republican Army prisoner, Davey (Brian Milligan) arrives at the prison refuses to wear the standard uniform. He is asked to take his clothes off, given a single blanket and have the walk of shame to his cell where he meets his cellmate, Gerry (Liam McMahon). Gerry is serving out a twelve year sentence, while Davey has only six. Looking around the room, Davey sees that Gerry has covered the walls of the cell in his own shit, putting his food in a slop corner on the floor and using his urine as a last act of defiance.

About thirty minutes into the film, we meet the main protagonist of the movie, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) who is the mastermind of the protest. The reason why the guards are beating up the prisoners is they get their visitors to smuggle notes to the outside world by being a drug mule of sorts. Gerry gets his girlfriend to smuggle radio transmitter in her vagina.

The prison guards force the inmates out of their cells to beat them into giving up their seemingly lost cause. They perform cavity searches on them, getting them to wash and cut their hair. That breaks some of the inmates.

Regrouping for the cause, Bobby Sands wants to go on a hunger strike to make the point to get the Irish government to name them political prisoners. He calls for a local priest (Liam Cunningham) to come talk to him. It culminates in a riveting seventeen minute unbroken shot with Bobby and the priest discussing the morality of the hunger strike.

The next moments of the movie shows the effects of malnutrition does to the human body.

Today’s filmmakers are so keen on quick cuts and being overly glossy, but McQueen does something that is raw and real and hits you to the core. The movie is tough to watch, because it shows that one person’s sacrifice could mean a lot to others. Michael Fassbender gives a brave performance in this movie.

Not knowing the story of Bobby Sands and this era, I had trouble getting into why the events happened the way they did. Why did we focus on a prison guard? Why do we focus on a riot officer at one point? Being that this is an Irish movie, I had trouble understanding of what the people were saying, even though there is very little dialogue in the movie.

Judgment: I would suggest reading up this subject before seeing the movie.

Rating: ****


About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on March 15, 2010, in 2008, Biopic, Crime, Drama, Independent, The Criterion Collection and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This reminds me that I need to get this movie. I can’t read the review until I see it 😉

  2. An actual Irish movie instead of that damn Boondocks Saints.

    • Yes! I got alot of shit, because I didn’t like that movie. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s a cult classic, because it’s so awful. I don’t know.

  3. I just watched the movie recently, and I was impressed…btw Branden, good review.

  4. I’m shocked how much this film has haunted my thoughts since I’ve seen it. After a month, I’d say that Fassbender’s weight loss definitely beats Christian Bale’s in The Mechanic. Top notch film. McQueen is someone to keep your eye on.

    • This is probably the only movie that made me think of shit art as beautiful. Closer to that is Quills. That was more horrifying. I loved the unbroken scenes. Very good movie.

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