- 1 hr 30 min
Hunger is a 2008 historical drama film, directed by renowned English filmmaker Steve McQueen, and is his debut feature film. The film chronicles the events leading up to the 1981 hunger strike waged by Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners held at HM Prison Maze, a top-security prison in Northern Ireland. The central character of the film is Bobby Sands, played by newcomer Michael Fassbender, who was imprisoned for his involvement in IRA activities. The film starts in the early 1970s, with Sands being arrested and sent to prison for six years. During his time there, he becomes increasingly militant in his beliefs and in his desire to be recognized as a political prisoner rather than a criminal. The film's first half is somewhat slow-paced, and it focuses on the day-to-day experiences of the prisoners, particularly Sands', as they endure brutal physical and emotional torment at the hands of their jailers. An especially harrowing scene depicts the futile attempts of the prisoners to cover their cell walls with their own feces, in protest against the prison's policy of allowing only a blanket, a mattress, and bucket inside each cell. The second half of the film is more intense and violent, as Sands embarks on a hunger strike in protest against the prison's conditions. This was a landmark event that came to symbolize the conflict between the Irish Republican movement and the British government. The hunger strike is depicted in graphic detail, with close-ups of Sands' deteriorating condition as he grows weaker and weaker with each passing day. The film's cinematography is breathtaking, giving an almost poetic touch to the bleak and sterile environment of the prison. McQueen often uses long takes to convey the boredom, isolation, and futility of the men's situation. There are also some stylistic touches, such as the use of a seagull's cry to represent the prisoners' longing for freedom. Hunger is a no-holds-barred portrayal of the desperation and the suffering that the Irish Republican prisoners endured. It is a stark reminder of a turbulent period in Northern Ireland's history and is a testimony to the human spirit, both in terms of the prisoners' determination to maintain their dignity and identity in the face of adversity and in Fassbender's mesmerizing performance as Bobby Sands. The supporting cast is equally impressive, with Stuart Graham playing one of the prison wardens with a quiet authority that hides a deeper vulnerability. Laine Megaw plays Sands' deeply religious mother with a moving grace, while Brian Milligan as a prisoner in the cell next to Sands delivers a haunting performance. The film is not without its flaws, however. Some might object to its dramatization of the events and accuse it of taking sides. Others might find its unrelenting gloominess too much to bear. However, the film's conviction and its director's commitment to realism shine through, making Hunger a must-see film for anyone interested in the Irish Republican conflict or in McQueen's body of work.