Hunger (2008)

A cheeseburger is looking pretty good right about now.

Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, an IRA volunteer and M.P. who led the second IRA hunger strike and participated in the “no wash” protest in which Republican prisoners tried to regain political status when it was revoked by the British government in 1976.

After checking seeing the sex-addiction flick last year, also known as Shame, I realized that this director Steve McQueen (go ahead, make the jokes) definitely has something to prove in terms of visual-style and the lengths he will go in order for us to feel as destroyed and hurt as his subjects are. This approach definitely limits your audience no matter what story you can throw-out there on the screen, but for a guy like this, and the story he’s tackling, it’s the only approach.

Yeah, for all of you people out there who don’t know (as I don’t either) apparently every member of the IRA who got thrown in jail, didn’t give into anything in there. They didn’t take clothes, they didn’t take food, they didn’t take beds, hell, they didn’t even take any toiletries  Basically, they just shat everywhere, let it run-loose, be naked all day, everyday, and sit there in their dirt and filth. If that doesn’t make you want to make a shower just thinking about it, then just wait till you see this movie, because it’s one gritty mofo that McQueen knows how to film.

What I like so much about McQueen’s style of film-making is that he doesn’t over-exploit whatever it is that he’s trying to say. Instead of having these long, winded speeches about the point he’s trying to get across, he instead, let’s the images speak for themselves and if you don’t believe me, seriously, count how many times you hear somebody speak a lick of dialogue in the first 45 minutes. I kid you not, other than about 25 minutes or so of actual-dialogue, the film takes the “silent treatment” and doesn’t let us forget about it, either. It may all sound boring, slow, and dull, but McQueen keeps things interesting, alive, and always gritty. “Gritty” is the exact-way you need to tell a story about a bunch of dudes who don’t shower and sleep in piles of their own shit.

As gritty and dirty as it may sound, and actually is, McQueen still doesn’t let that get in the way of his style and shows us that there is a lot of pain to be seen in this prison. A couple of memorable sequences stuck with me like the tracking-shot of all of the prisoners getting their arses beat to shreds by a bunch of dudes with clubs, or the tracking-shot of the dude sweeping-up all of the urine left in the hallway by the prisoners, but the one shot that sticks in my mind the best is probably the most obvious choice, but with good reason, too.

See this shot? You better, because that’s half of the movie right there.

There’s this scene that takes place in the middle of the movie where Bobby and this priest meet-up to talk about why Bobby shouldn’t move ahead with his hunger strike idea of a protest that’s indented into his mind, and it’s not just the most memorable scene because it holds the longest single-shot in cinematic history (17 minutes long, yikes!), but because it’s the scene where the whole movie comes alive. The way these two men speak to each other about life, religion, and what’s right and what’s wrong, is absolutely brilliant and makes you see the point-of-view of both sides. You see the realistic, humanistic-side of how a person should keep their pride by keeping their own lives, but then you see the politically-inspired, rebellious-side as well stating that a person should, and can do anything and everything they want, as long as they are sticking clear to what they believe in. It provides us a look at both-sides of the coin and makes us realize that maybe fighting for what you believe in, no matter how extreme it may be, is the most effective-way of rebellion after all. Now, I don’t think the flick is saying that the only way you can get a point across is to starve yourself to death, but what I do think it’s saying is that the people who were in the IRA and protested, fought for what they believed in, no matter how crazy it may been seen-by from other people’s standards and ideas.

“For the last time, it’s call METHOD-ACTING! Now seriously, help me up.”

But see, that scene, as great and powerful as it may be, is also the last scene where anything really seems to happen and keep your mind on what’s going on, because after that, it sort of goes downhill from there. After this scene, we have about 30 minutes left of the actual-film and as happy as I was to see that when the scene finally ended, I was a bit disappointed by how McQueen didn’t seem to capitalize on the energy and the emotional-stride this flick seemed to have. The last 30 minutes, are literally just dedicated to Bobby looking like a needle, not eating, sleeping all day and night, throwing-up blood, not eating, still sleeping, having day dreams of a time he remembers the most vividly from his childhood, not eating, getting a visit from his mammy and pappy, and then (*SPOILER*, I guess), passing away and dying a very slow and painful death. Yeah, it’s pretty damn repetitive after the first 10 minutes and it doesn’t stop from there, which means that we have to just sit-there and watch as a guy practically kills himself, right in-front of our own eyes. Not a fun-experience, but then again, I wasn’t expecting fun, but instead, just wanted the movie to move 0n and get going.

However, even if these last 30 minutes seem to fail the rest of the movie, Michael Fassbender is still compelling as hell to watch and it’s so obvious why the guy is the huge, up-and-coming star that he is today. Bobby Sands is the main-character of this story, yet, doesn’t show-up until half-way through the second act but when he does get involved, it’s all Fassbender’s show from there and it’s a show worth watching from start-to-finish because this guy just has so much power on the screen, it’s hard to take your eyes off of or think of anything else. Fassbender goes all “Christian Bale” with his role, and gets mega-skinny to the point of where I really don’t think he even ate bread crumbs. That’s how bad he looks but that’s still a good thing for him and his performance since it really shows you the passion and dedication he has for his characters, something we all know and love about him now.

Consensus: Hunger may fall-apart by the last 30 minutes, but it before all of that, it’s a powerful and gritty, yet stylistic-tale of one man’s fight for what he believes in, played so passionately by Michael Fassbender who really shows us what he has, way before he became the big star he is today.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"You heard me right: I need you to shit more."
“You heard me right: I need you to shit more.”


  1. Great film! It’s so beautifully shot, although that is at expense of the narrative at times. It never goes as in-depth as it could into anything and is more of a snapshot than either a narrative or character driven film. You can definitely tell McQueen learnt his trade as an artist as it looks better than tells a story but it’s still a fascinating watch. Great review Dan!

  2. “What I like so much about McQueen’s style of film-making is that he doesn’t over-exploit whatever it is that he’s trying to say. Instead of having these long, winded speeches about the point he’s trying to get across, he instead, let’s the images speak for themselves” — well said! That expresses a big part of the reason I appreciated this movie so much. I disagree about it falling apart in the last 30 minutes, but I agree about the conversation with the priest. What a powerful scene! Excellent review, Dan.

  3. This gets top marks from me Dan. It’s one of my favourite films. Sorry to hear that you think it fell apart towards the end though. Personally, I thought it finished very strongly. That long take between the is exceptional.

  4. Michael Fassbender was fantastic in the movie. I thought that subject matter did not affect me like if somebody was from across the ocean.

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