Director: Steve McQueen

Turner prize-winning artist Steve McQueen made a shattering entry into feature film-making with this vivid, contentious yet ultimately compassionate study of Bobby Sands’ 1981 hunger strike at the Maze prison. Extensively researched, and co-written by noted Irish playwright Enda Walsh, Hunger is a work of disarming authenticity, unblinking in its depiction of the Republican prisoners’ so-called ‘Dirty Protest’ to win ‘political’ status, the violence meted out by prison officers within the H-Blocks, and, significantly, the off-duty murder of those officers by the IRA. Alongside this in-your-face intensity is an exploration of the wider issues, as the unconventional structure moves from documentary-style introduction to a crucial unbroken 22-minute scene where Sands (Michael Fassbender) sits down with Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), announces his intention to go on hunger strike and is firmly questioned by the priest over the morality of sacrificing his own life — and indeed the motives for such extreme action. Built on a fearless performance by Fassbender, who underwent supervised weight loss for the role, Hunger is a valuable investigation into this island’s troubled recent past.

Notes by Trevor Johnston.

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