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Hunger

Director: STEVE McQUEEN

U.K. • 2008 • COLOUR • Anamorphic • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 95 MIN


TURNER PRIZE-WINNING ARTIST STEVE McQUEEN MAKES 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, it’s 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 there’s also room for 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.
Any fears that all this would turn into some glib propaganda exercise or some outpouring of woolly liberal hand-wringing are soon dispelled by McQueen’s degree of control over his material, even-tempered in the way it registers the suffering on both sides of the argument, and finally offering a potently inward, contemplative assessment of human loss in the face of unshakeable conviction. Built on a fearless performance by rising star Fassbender, who underwent supervised weight loss for the role, it’s both a valuable investigation into this island’s troubled recent past, but also, evidently, a film for today, when the issue of the body as weapon could hardly be more relevant. — Trevor Johnston.

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