Monday, November 17, 2014

Movie of the Week – Hunger

This week’s movie: Hunger (2008)

In 1981, the IRA undertook a hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands, to protest the British Government withdrawal of Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners. This drama details the events and lives of the inmates in Maze Prison in Northern Ireland leading up to the hunger strike (the culmination of a five-year protest).

Hunger is the debut film from auteur Steve McQueen; it also might be his most artistic and powerful. McQueen has since become one of our greatest filmmakers, currently working, following up Hunger with Shame and 12 Years a Slave (which won a Best Picture Oscar earlier this year; it was also my favorite film of 2013). On Hunger, he worked with composers Leo Abrahams and David Holmes, cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (who has shot all three of McQueen’s films) and production designer Tom McCullagh.

The film stars Michael Fassbender (serving as one of his breakthrough projects, along with Fish Tank and Inglourious Basterds), and features Stuart Graham and Liam Cunningham in support. Fassbender has appeared in all three of McQueen’s films.

Hunger is evocative as it artistically takes on the horror of life in the prison and the violence the guards faced outside of it. The prisoners are savagely treated, as they seek to be recognized as political prisoners, not common criminals. Outside the prison, the guards live in constant fear of retaliation by the IRA. McQueen, a Turner Prize winning artist, takes on the historical period with an unflinching eye. Fassbender plays Bobby Sands with such dedication, undergoing a medically supervised crash diet to achieve the look of starvation. It is haunting. Fassbender and Cunningham, playing a scene between Sands and Father Dominic Moran, deliver one of the most compelling long-takes in cinematic history. The film won the Golden Camera and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. It is a magnificent film, showcasing the beauty and artistry of the medium while also capturing the raw brutality and tension of the period. It is a must-see for fans of independent cinema and those looking to see modern masterpieces.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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