Movie Review: Hunger (2008)

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Drama
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In 1977, Irish Republican Army leader Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender)  was sentenced to 14 years  for firearms possession and sent to HM Prison Maze.  The IRA had lost their Special Category Status, and had launched protests like the Blanket Protest, where they refused to wear prison uniforms, and dirty protests, where they smeared the walls of their prison cells with excrement.  As soon as Sands was imprisoned he was beaten and his hair was forcibly cut.  In the beginning of his imprisonment, he is visited by his parents, Mr. Sands, (Des  McAleer) and Mrs. Sands (Helen Madden) His father notices his black eye, and his mother asks if he’s eating.  The beatings of the prisoners continue, as do the shootings by the IRA.  After a long talk with his priest, Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) Sands begins a hunger strike on March 1 1981.  The priest is against the strike, but he does it anyway.    Sands wants the IRA to get back its Special Category Status, and letters and parcels once a week and free association with other prisoners.  Does the hunger strike work?  Do the prisoners get some of their rights back?  Does the hunger strike work?

This movie is quite slow for the first half hour, the dialogue is sparse, the setting is dank and dreary, the mood is claustrophobic , all of this is purposeful .  But then Fassbender comes on screen and everything is suddenly electric.  He’s scuffling with cops, reassuring his parents, and having a 20 minute philosophical dialogue with his priest, this dialogue.  We learn more about Sands as a child, during this dialogue, and it does humanize him a bit, but lest you feel sorry for the IRA, there’s a scene with the cops  beating  IRA prisoners, juxtaposed with a scene that makes the beating seem justified.  This juxtaposition provides some balance to the film, as does the sharp exchange between Sands and Father Dom.  The minimalism of the scenes, and the length of the scenes really lets the viewer soak in the total visual effect of each scene.  That’s what makes the Hunger a film with watching, great direction, and a top notch performance by Michael Fassbender, and an equally good scene stealing performance from Laim Cunningham, as a frustrated  priest from Northern Ireland.  There’s a lot of male nudity in this movie and tons of violence, so it’s not for the kiddies.

Hunger.  Whet your appetite for some gritty, no-nonsense, filmmaking.

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