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74 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning debut film with a very important subject - the 1981 hunger strike by IRA leader Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison
In spite of the care and patient control with which this powerful film is shot and edited, "Hunger" is a deeply visceral and moving film, featuring a brilliant performance by Michael Fassbender in the lead role. There are scenes of violent and intense brutality here, but what is more powerful are the simple shots, of a face, of a look, of a gesture, washing hands, of...
Published on December 29, 2009 by Nathan Andersen

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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Based on the true story
Hunger is a film based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike by Northern Irish prisoners seeking political prisoner status.

The film is made by British director, Steve McQueen (no relation to actor.) It is his first film.

The film can be difficult to watch due to graphic scenes of emaciation (which were real and done under the supervision of...
Published on April 26, 2010 by Ted


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74 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning debut film with a very important subject - the 1981 hunger strike by IRA leader Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison, December 29, 2009
In spite of the care and patient control with which this powerful film is shot and edited, "Hunger" is a deeply visceral and moving film, featuring a brilliant performance by Michael Fassbender in the lead role. There are scenes of violent and intense brutality here, but what is more powerful are the simple shots, of a face, of a look, of a gesture, washing hands, of sores on the back of a dying prisoner. While the film is based on real events, with deep political ramifications, the film itself is not so much political as a plea for humanity, that sides with the wounded sensitivity detected in the eyes of those guards who had been unable to desensitize themselves to the routinely brutal treatment they gave to the prisoners in an effort to break their spirits, as much as it sides with the humanity in the dehumanized IRA prisoners it depicts.

The film details the horrific prison conditions that motivated IRA leader Bobby Sands to begin a hunger strike in 1981, that led to his death and that of 8 other prisoners, but also eventually won some concessions for the IRA prisoners, that they had been unable to achieve in any other way. The film opens on one of the guards, washing his hands of the violence he'd inflicted on a prisoner but also unable to wash away his own sense of culpability and fear, and, later, unable to build a connection with the other guards who seem more immune to what they do.

It isn't until about a third of the way through the film that we are introduced to Bobby Sands, who is clearly something of a leader among the men, and it isn't until the final third of the film that Sands takes center stage, and embarks upon the hunger strike that gives the film its title. This is not so much his story as the story of a situation, that affected all who were involved in a number of ways. There is very little in the way of back story here - it is all about the immediacy of the situation, in which the past is mostly irrelevant and what matters is the continuation of the struggle for recognition, as something other than common criminals. What I found fascinating (and brilliantly depicted here) was the core paradox of their prison rebellion: that in order to win recognition as human beings and soldiers whose cause was unpopular but not evil, that in their struggle for equality, they had to debase themselves, to reject clothing, to smear feces on the walls in protest, to exploit and attack their own bodies as a demonstration of the inhumanity of their treatment.

The film is told mostly through carefully controlled visuals, chiaroscuro with a wide range of tonality between the darkest darks and the brightest whites and colors, with a minimum of dialogue, except during a powerful and lengthy exchange between Sands and a priest about his decision to embark on a new hunger strike, and his willingness to take it all the way. While director Steve McQueen (no relation to the actor) has a very distinctive style, his approach here reminded me somewhat of Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped. Both films tell their story in a minimalist style, with carefully controlled framings that show only what is necessary to capture the impact of events, leaving aside all that is superfluous. The camera frames bodies and faces very tightly, in medium and close shots, inside the actual prison cells, and only opens up more wide to convey the depth of the prison corridor, or to contrast the openness of the visitor's room or the out of doors with the closed off nature of the cells.

Apart from being overwhelmed by the intensity and importance of the subject matter - this is a story that needed to be told, from inside, and I can't imagine a better telling than this - apart from all that I was stunned by the power of the filmmaking. This is one of the most impressive directorial efforts I've seen in a long time, and an amazing debut by Steve McQueen, and I expect it will be recognized as one of the most important films of this decade by the film historians who care about substance and style over commercialism and buzz. This is definitely one to have for the library of the film lover who likes to study films; there's a lot to learn here. I can't say how happy I am that Criterion is doing the releasing on this one.

Here's what to expect on the disc:
* New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Steve McQueen (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
* Video interviews with McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender
* A short documentary on the making of Hunger, including interviews with McQueen, Fassbender, actors Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, and Brian Milligan, writer Enda Walsh, and producer Robin Gutch
* "The Provo's Last Card?" a 1981 episode of the BBC program Panorama, about the causes and effects of the IRA hunger strikes at the Maze prison and the political and civilian reactions across Northern Ireland
* Theatrical trailer
* A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chris Darke
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and practically unmatchable, February 3, 2010
This is hands down one of the best films of the past decade for me. "Visual Artist" Steve McQueen captures a sense of humanity in a way that few directors seem to be in touch with, telling a powerful story in a fashion that most are afraid to.

There is very little dialogue - and the dialogue that exists comes in spouts like an 18-minute long scene where the camera stays still and doesn't cut away at all. It could have easily been pretentious, but it is not in the least. McQueen has proven himself just by this one instance to be an extraordinary visionary that knows how to tell a story vividly without having to "tell" it. Did I mention the cinematography is gorgeous? Practically everything in "Hunger" is honed to perfection, and Michael Fassbinder's gruelingly tangible performance shows human deterioration at its most believable.

A masterpiece.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Based on the true story, April 26, 2010
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Ted "Ted" (Pennsylvania, USA) - See all my reviews
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Hunger is a film based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike by Northern Irish prisoners seeking political prisoner status.

The film is made by British director, Steve McQueen (no relation to actor.) It is his first film.

The film can be difficult to watch due to graphic scenes of emaciation (which were real and done under the supervision of physicians), prison violence and depictions of the "dirty protest." The film includes archival audio of Margaret Thatcher speaking about the crisis.

The special features are very good too. There is a theatrical trailer, documentary on the film's production, Interviews with director McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender, and a 1981 BBC episode of Panorama, about the real life crisis. This BBC program is very good and includes interviews with figures from both sides of the debates related Troubles. Interview subjects include Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley.

This film while graphic is quite authentic and depicts an important part of British and Irish history.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning cinematography and performances, March 9, 2011
This review is from: Hunger (Amazon Instant Video)
Hunger tackles a difficult and controversial subject. At times its not easy viewing but all the better a film for that. Best known as a photographer (until this) Steve McQueens debut feature is original, beautiful, sparse and the cast, art direction and cinematography are simply outstanding.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hunger Artist, April 25, 2010
Hunger does what it says on the tin,it abstracts from a polemical,ideological situation about hunger strikes in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in 1981 and removes the heat of the local personalities and history of the time, and gives us a film based on the individual humanity and decisions of individuals based at a stressful time.We get the essence without the controversy,coming as it does 27 years after the events described.We also get a film maker who has come from making video art works into the strange world of film making with all its taboos and shibboleths.Bobby Sands is the central character but doesn't come in until 35 minutes into the film.So the performance does not shout:this is Bobby Sands,he arrives as an organic part of the central and last triptychs.The films tripartite structure moves through the physical-the sheer claustrophobic hell of physical beatings,to the ideas at the heart of the motivation behind the hunger strike in the immaculate boxing match dialogue,to the wasting away of a human body in its last defence against an all powerful state.

The film opens with taking us through the daily rituals of Officer Lohan(Graham) as he prepares himself for another day's work in prison.He is lonely,suffers stress,we see crumbs dropping as he eats his breakfast.We see him smoking outside and snowflakes falling on his bloodied knuckles.As he leaves and opens his front gate like a prison door,he searches under his car for any bomb devices.In the Maze we see the admission process of another prisoner Brian and his refusal to wear prison uniform,and his receipt of a blanket as he is lead to his cell.Inside his cell, walls smeared with faeces greet him and he is met by Davey.There are scenes where the blanket protest is followed by the `dirty' protest,where prisoners object to having the status of `political prisoner' removed,they smear their cell walls with faeces or they empty their urine under their cell doors into the main corridor where it meets other streams of urine. Also the prisoners don't wash,let their hair grow long, leave food to rot on the cell floor. Every so often the men are pulled out of their cells and made to run the gauntlet of officers in full armoury as they run naked under the blows that rain down on them or they are forcibly scrubbed in a bath by several warders,hair cut.All the prisoners want is to be able to wear their own clothes, freely associate,receive letters and parcels once a week and not be treated like criminals.They have to resort to smuggling thingslike radio receivers up their anus from visitors or concealing paper notes in their mouths.The prison officers,often of the UDA,resent the conditions and stress of their work and the anxiety of being killed themselves as Lohan is when he visitshis dementing mother in an old people's home.Sixteen in all were killed at the time.We get the cold hand of the state with an implacable disembodied voice of Margaret Thatcher on radio.

The central unexpected part of the film is a static two takes 22 minute dialogue shot backlit in the visitors room between Sands(Fassbender) and Father Moran (Cunningham).Before this everything had been filmed without dialogue, setting the context of the dysfunction and degradation of the prison environment.Now Sands goes head- to-head in an argument with the priest .They both start off bantering,then talk of their respective childhoods,Sands telling Moran how he became a leader. They move into more serious gear with Moran arguing that he is speaking to a dead man,why not value his life and family more? Sands wants to be a martyr like Pearse.Sands showing the steel in his determination to go through with the hunger strike to the death as leader of many more.This scene is remarkably intense and has our full attention.There is rhythm as the two dance around,testing each other's mettle.Following this scene there is a warder clearing the corridor of urine,laying down disinfectant,pushing it forward with a squeegee in slow,methodical strokes.This scene is impressive as he moves from one end to the camera at the other where the viewer is. The repetition and the movement serve to underline the dialogue scene.They both take place in real time and help us absorb what has happened.

The final part of the film has a different tone:it is about Sands slowly starving to death over 66 days, so he becomes an emaciated ghost.This largely takes place in the hospital section of the prison in one room.Time passing suggested by meals brought,taken away and replaced by other uneaten meals.As he is lifted there are suggestions of him being like a Christ figure.There are flashbacks to his childhood.As he lies in bed a feather glides down poignantly in one shot,which seems heavier than him.McQueen has spoken of the difficulty of watching even actors beating other actors,where he did the prison beating scene in 6 takes.He also sent Fassbinder away for 10 weeks to diet severely to 58 kg.Due to the trust he created on the film set what he asked of his actors they delivered like performance artists of extreme authenticity.So the camaraderie amongst the film crew was high. Because he is primarily an artist he also evokes the material nature of the faeces,the urine,the physicality of being beaten and starvation,the claustrophobic enclosure and terror.The film was made in N.Ireland.The only thing missing is the collective camaraderie of the prisoners,the singing of songs,the noise.He gives you the minimum of information and mostly lets the images speak,gives the desperation of using the human body as the ultimate form of protest.Shortof narrative the film as body installation speaks more eloquently of that time.A ritualistic tragedy abstracted into
art.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Maze Prison 1981, Where Political Conflict Bred Extreme Emotions & Behavior., March 6, 2010
It seems false to say that "Hunger" dramatizes the events surrounding the hunger strike of Irish Republican Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison that made news around the world in 1981. Steve McQueen's film does not so much dramatize the bizarre conditions and battle of wills inside the Maze as it shows them to us. "Hunger" is a film of images with very little dialogue. It's fantastically cinematic, until, about halfway through, it is interrupted by a 22 minute conversation between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Catholic priest Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) in which the IRA radical and the moderate Catholic lay out their conflicting views of how Irish Republicans should proceed. An almost entirely aural experience in the middle of a highly visual film.

By 1981, over 2,000 people had been killed in "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland, as republicans and unionists battled over the future of British rule, and the British tried to keep the peace while tending to support the unionists. The Maze prison housed 75 IRA militants who were convicted of crimes. When we enter the prison in 1981, they're on a "blanket" and "no wash" strike. They refuse to wear prison uniforms, so they go naked except for a blanket, and they refuse to bathe or cut their hair. They smear excrement all over their cell walls and destroy their accommodations as best they can to protest their status as prisoners, while the prison officers are forced to cope with this situation with varying degrees of passivity and force.

"Hunger" doesn't give much hint of why the prisoners are protesting or what they hope to achieve with these actions or with the later hunger strikes. (They were trying to force the British government to recognize them as political prisoners rather than criminals.) Steve McQueen and co-writer Enda Walsh are more concerned with conveying the bizarre circumstances that leads to warped behavior on the part of both prisoners and guards, and its emotional toll. It is startling how clearly smells and tactile sensations come across through the use of images. Close-ups on detail, meticulous production design, and no distracting dialogue are a powerful combination. This sensory experience emphasizes the primitivism to which both sides of the conflict have resorted.

Some say the IRA supported the hunger strikes to garner international support and improve their recruiting in Northern Ireland rather than out of concern for the political status of the prisoners. "Hunger" doesn't take a stance on British rule, IRA violence, or even whether Bobby Sands and his fellow strikers were delusional pawns or martyrs to a just cause. It contents itself with showing us the strange situation that the politics of Northern Ireland created inside the Maze prison at that time -and the deaths and damage to prisoners and prison officers that resulted. Steve McQueen has admirably combined the sensory impact of photographic art with the humanity that the actors bring to their roles to take the viewer inside a strange and disturbing conflict that played out nearly 30 years ago.

The DVD (Criterion Collection 2010): There are 4 featurettes and a theatrical trailer (1 ˝ min). "Steve McQueen" (17 min) interviews the director about how he uses the camera, contrast between the Maze and normal life, his research, and the film's reception. "The Making of Hunger" (14 min) interviews McQueen, writer Enda Walsh, producer Robin Gutch, and the cast. "Michael Fassbender" (14 min) is a 2008 interview by film critic Jason Solomons about preparing to play Bobby Sands and making the movie. "The Provos' Last Card?" (45 min) is a segment from the BBC news program "Panorama" in 1981. Journalist Peter Taylor looks at the political situation in Northern Ireland through interviews with Sinn Fein, Democratic Unionist, and Labour Party leaders, and others. This is helpful in understanding the political situation surrounding the hunger strikes if you are not British or Irish and need some education on the subject.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Corporal Descent, Spiritual Ascent: A Triptych, July 5, 2010
By 
HUNGER is a work of art - in more ways than one. It resembles to power of the majestic murals and altarpieces created for the medieval cathedrals, art that depicted worldly suffering and bitter realities that eventually promised something better in the future - after death. The film, based on a true event in Ireland of 1981 - the hunger strike and subsequent death of Bobby Sands who believed the only way to make the British government understand the political commitment of the IRA - and it is painted by British artist/writer/director Steve McQueen as a vast triptych. The first 'panel' depicts the incarceration in the filth of the H-Block in the Maze prison in Belfast: the silent 'narrator' is prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) who we meet as he dresses for work, bathing his knuckles bruised by the beatings of the prisoners he controls. A new character is introduced into the painting as recently arrested IRA member Davey Gillen (Brian Mulligan) who in keeping with the philosophy of his fellow prisoners refuses the prison uniform, opting to be naked and is through into a fecal smeared cell with Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon). We follow these two as they breakdown after protesting the living conditions and the beatings of the guards, and a plan for revenge is made. In a poignant scene we see Lohan visiting his demented mother in a nursing home and during Lohan's attempts to share love with his mother an iRA hitman enters and murders him. The fuse for the repercussions is set.

The middle panel of this triptych is where we meet Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), shorn of his hair and brutally beaten, in conversation with an old friend, Father Dominic Moran, who came form the same background as Bobby but has been summoned for reasons not immediately explained. This middle panel of the triptych is static in that it is restricted to the two men at a table in the prison, smoking, and interchanging memories and conversation. In this dialogue we learn the reasons for the long lasting political animosity within Ireland - better than any movie so far - as it is at this point that Bobby informs Father Moran that he will be the first of 75 prisoners to go on a hunger strike. Despite Father Moran's attempts to show Bobby how futile his concept is, Bobby believes so firmly in his issues that he refuses to abandon his plan, knowing that he will die if the government doesn't respond to the prisoners' demands. (This portion of the screenplay was written by the playwright Edna Walsh and it is brilliantly terse, compact, and emotionally devastating.)

The final panel of the triptych is the gradual, almost silent deterioration of Bobby Sands as he spends the last 66 days of his life refusing all food, growing nearly flaccid from his loss of boy mass, covered with decubitus ulcers, and finally dying. It is a tragic third of the film and one that is so compelling that the viewer almost forgets to breathe. The manner in which the body of Bobby Sands is cared for is not unlike the tomb of Gesthemane, agonizingly quiet, gentle, and finally ending with a view of the Ireland outside the prison walls with birds flying off in the distance.

Throughout this intense drama there are moments supplied by Director McQueen that share the human side of both ends of the political/prisoner spectrum: during one of the most brutal beating scenes while the guards are in riot gear flailing the prisoners with clubs, we see in a hidden corner one of the prison guards hiding from the melee, crying. And there are moments of conversation between some of the prisoners and their families that are deeply touching. Michael Fassbinder gives an extraordinary performance as Bobby Sands: to make his hunger strike credible the actor lost weight to the point of emaciation, and yet this physical portion of his role, appalling though it is, does not compare to the nonverbal language of his face while he ends his life. This is a magnificent piece of filmmaking and one that should be shared by everyone who wonders about the history of modern politics in Ireland. Grady Harp, July 10
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Questions / Few Answers, April 5, 2010
By 
S. H. Wells (Tulsa, OK United States) - See all my reviews
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Faced with headlines about Cuban prisoners starving themselves to death and the unsolved status of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, this movie about IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland begs many questions but provides few answers. Are they criminals in a glorified gang? The British answer would be yes. Are any of the resistance methods employed by the IRA effective? Who is being punished more by the no clothes no cleaning strike?

The questions of ethics and politics are neatly folded into the various characters of the cast. Sands is clearly right to stand for status as a political prisoner. The British jailer is clearly right to hate the 2-bit gangsters who drape Irish nationalism over their crimes. The priest is right in loving the sinner but expressing serious doubts about the virtues of a hunger strike. The nurses are right in caring for their patient and hating what he does as he slowly wastes away.

The acting carries this film and prevents it from being heavy-handed or preachy. Each actor carries his point of view so confidently and completely that the viewer can't help but empathize with the horrific events that each actor confronts.

The film work is excellent. Nothing too showy or gimicky: no one is trying to make a faux-documentary here. The little details captured by camera particularly in the early scenes during the no wash strike a powerful and disturbing. The body of sands as he detriorates is painfully vivid.

After it is finished, this film leaves the big questions open and will make viewers want to talk about some of the complexities brought out in the picture. Ultimately, I think, the one question each character forces us to confront is: how can mankind be so cruel to each other and yet so oblivious to other's suffering at the same time?
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the untamed human will is capable to endure!, June 6, 2011
The life and times of Bobby Sands elapse from the moment he is sent to prison, passing through his phenomenal sequence with the priest in which he revelas his inner thoughts about the political situation and the two different optics are carved in relief in that unforgettable dialogue.

The film depicts with eloquent images the horror, moral devastation and progressive final of a human being who refuses to live. Bobby Sands goes on a hunger strike and during 66 days his voice will be heard through all his country, Europe and the entire world.

Perhaps, no other film has depicted with such level of crudeness the real nature of this controversial issue. Sands assumes his own road protesting against the status as political prisioners rather than ordinary criminals.

Michael Fassbender makes one of the top 10 best male performances of the decade with this well rounded film. Perfect, superb and magisterial masterwork that must not be ignored.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brutal and Powerful Film Fueled By Haunting Imagery and a Magnificent Performance from Michael Fassbender, December 8, 2012
This review is from: Hunger (Amazon Instant Video)
Hunger follows Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and the 1981 Irish hunger strike where the Republican prisoners tried to reclaim their political status. A film with few words; a film with powerful imagery and actions. Hunger often requires the audience to think deeply about what is shown, and that's something I really liked. There is one particular scene that did have a great amount of dialogue; this specific scene is the meeting between Sands and Father Dom where they have an authentic, immersive thought-provoking conversation. The entire film is very interesting, down to the painful ending. Michael Fassbender is amazing in this film, and so is the rest of the cast. It does get hard to follow at times, especially if you're not familiar with the incident, since it doesn't take the time to fully explain. And, it does have a slow start and a couple of scenes that drag-on.

Hunger is recommended for fans of dramas, especially visual dramas. This film is available on Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix Streaming, as of 12/8/12, in case you're still not fully sold on it.

Hunger has strong violence and blood, and constant full male nudity.
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Hunger by Steve McQueen
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