In 1981, after four and a half years at Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, Bobby Sands, IRA "terrorist," beaten, humiliated and denied status as a political prisoner by Margaret Thatchers regime, organized and carried out a last ditch ultimatum in the form of a self-imposed hunger strike that lasted an agonizing 66 days before his death. Unblinking in the face of doom and certain of his convictions in the name of right and just freedom, his protest, emulated by many others in his wake, grabbed the attention of the world and brought his struggle to the forefront of immutable doctrine in the United Kingdom. Hunger, the new film directed by Steve McQueen, grants us an almost too intimate recounting of the conditions and struggle leading up to and through his final days. Gritty, visceral, startling in it's delivery and lingering in it's clarity, Hunger hearkens back to an old-school, raw form of film-making long lost to the flash and glitter of today's cinematic exploits. The narrative is relatively straight forward but in it's stark delivery we're not so much entertained as we are exposed to the fragile humanity within us all.
Brilliantly acted, beautifully shot, painfully crafted and delivered, the performances carry us away from our accustomed anticipations and expectations and, instead, exist at depths beyond actors portraying characters... at one point clobbering audiences with a twenty plus minute one-shot of the final meeting between martyr and priest that's absolutely incredible.
There's a lot to be said and judged about the events leading up to his imprisonment, but political agendas aside, Hunger is a relentless exposure to an incredibly harsh existence and the paths to which it lead.
I openly admit I love a great deal of throw-away cinema, but I definitely know a work of bitter genius when I see it. Hunger unquestionably falls into a very unique and elite class of movie making. It's not going to ring with everyone... and it's definitely not for anyone looking to hit the theatre on cruise control... but it simply should not be missed.
Hunger opens on Friday, April 17th and if you claim to have even the slightest interest in film-making, I would highly recommend you make your way to a theatre this weekend for a viewing. During the screening, several people left the theatre in the face of such a harsh and intense experience. I would suspect this is a good indication that the average movie goer simply isn't going to be investing their entertainment dollars which can only lead to a limited run... and you won't want to miss this on the big screen.
Michael Fassbender, known for his role as Stelios in Frank Miller's 300, starved himself for two months to portray Bobby Sands