Skip to main content

Review: Hunger

Steve McQueen's Hunger resides in the solely physical realm. Feelings don't matter in this prison where Bobby Sands is held, bruises matter. Interactions with guards are entirely non-verbal. Beatings and forced baths take the place of negotiations and conditions.

Little background about the prisoners is offered as we enter the film: a guard bathes his bruised knuckles and proceeds to check under his car for a bomb every morning, a newly imprisoned man refuses to wear prison garb and enters his cell with little more than a blanket. Here, he enters his confined surroundings to find context smeared all over the walls.

The world's smallest war is being fought in the corridors of this prison. Chaos versus order. Food is made into mush to channel urine into the halls. Resistance is then swept away with the flick of a wrist. The innocence of a babe swaddled in cloth is instantly corrupted by the transfer of messages by any means possible. These men are fighting this war not over resources, reputation or slight. These men are fighting for recognition and they are losing that battle. They are losing their dignity. They are losing their souls.

Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), the fiercely confident leader of the movement, finds himself reaching at straws now. He knows his efforts to gain status as political prisoners are nearing futile. Margaret Thatcher is perhaps the only person more stubborn than Sands.

His nuclear option is to revisit the hunger strikes attempted earlier in his incarceration. If the Irish Republican Army is to gain back its recognition, they will have to do better than the 53 days from their first act of protest.

Very few performances manage to captivate with doing so minimal an amount of action. For a majority of Fassbender's screentime he is doing nothing more than focusing his breath, but those moments are breathtaking. A hush falls over Hunger as Sands physical transformation takes place. Fassbender actually underwent the drastic weight loss that is seen onscreen.

The moment where Bobby's true determination is captured occurs earlier than the hunger strike though. A twenty-two minute one-shot-take features Sands and Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) discussing the value of life while sitting across from each other. That they are bookends in the frame designates a shifting point of Steve McQueen's directorial debut. The conversion where a film ostensibly about depicting small details of a movement shifts into a profile of one man's transcendence.

***1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…