Friday, April 10, 2009


"Hunger," the excellent film by Steve McQueen, is a sickening, brutal dustup of the 1981 prison sentence of Bobby Sands and others around him. McQueen, in his debut film, goes headlong into a challenging period and crafts superb imagery. The movie is extremely hard to stomach and changes its feel every scene or so, making it erratic. There's a magnetism that keeps you going, though. McQueen knows how to set his shots up. He's like a modern, British Ozu, except he's gone darker and deeper. As the film opens, it seems to be headed towards being a glossy 80's replica. But McQueen takes this feel and extends it even farther. Also, he makes art with the most extreme substances, such as circles of excretion on a cell wall or the collected urine of protesting prisoners joining together.

But what he concentrates on is the brutality of The Troubles and how the IRA got treated in prison. "In the Name of the Father," Jim Sheridan's 1993 similar started to scrape the surface, but Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite couldn't replicate the conditions as well as "Hunger" now has. This is mostly because of Michael Fassbender, who gives a mesmerizing and disturbing performance as Bobby Sands. Although during the long scene with the priest he banters, Fassbender does most of his acting without speaking. McQueen directs well, since he's got the right actor in the most integral role, one who can channel Sands well. McQueen also decides to let his shots run long. The average shot length seems to be about 2 and half minutes (or at least that's how it feels). The pacing here is slack and works well that way.

The subtle overall feel of the film and how it doesn't quite reflect the horrors that are inside of it is disturbing as well. The same can be said for the devastating deterioration of Sands, and how Fassbender plays him is horrific. And this isn't even the most disquieting moment of the film. Not in the very least. "Hunger" is an unsettling look at how political fasting takes its toll, and made at least me thankful for three-course meals. A

Content Warning: "Hunger" is one of the most disturbing films of the decade. If it had been rated, it would be for strong brutal violence, language, disturbing images, and some sexual material. If a child does see this, THEY WILL BE VERY DISTURBED. Trust me.

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