Hunger – movie review

Most Americans don’t know who Bobby Sands was. However, mentioning his name anywhere in Ireland or the UK, will provoke an  immediate emotional reaction reaction. He is considered either a martyr or a terrorist. There is no such thing as a neutral opinion

Hunger is a movie that is so real and moving it is difficult to watch. It is the true story of Bobby Sands, the IRA member,  during his 66 day hunger strike in 1981 in a North Ireland prison.

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The background of the movie is that of  the conflicting ideologies between the IRA and the British government. The IRA members consider themselves a patriotic Irish army fighting against a repressive regime. As such, they want to be treated as prisoners of war and had been, until Margaret Thatcher removed the “Special Status” category for IRA prisoners.

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The film does not take any political stance. It’s focus is on the daily life inside the prison. The IRA members have made a decision to go on a hunger strike one at a time until the Special Status is reinstated.  This film is the close up study of someone who is willing to die for a cause in one of the most painful ways possible.

This movie has some of the best performances we have ever seen on film. Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, and put his own life at risk for this part. No special effects wee used, and Michael Fassbender went from 170 pounds down to 132 pounds during the making of the movie.

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One of the longest and most memorable scenes in the film is the discussion by Bobby Sands and the prison priest when Bobby announces his intention to begin his hunger strike. The priest, excellently played by Liam Cunningham, tries every tactic he can to make Bobby change his mind.

The priest tries the political argument that the British government will never back down. He tries the theological approach, pointing out that Bobby would be committing suicide; which the Catholic church considers a mortal sin.

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For every argument Bobby has an answer. Despite the dark nature of their subject matter, these two men debate back and forth  with  Irish banter, including  jokes and off-subject stories to lighten the mood. At some points they seem like two friends in a pub discussing a disputed goal in a football match. Then they come back to the real subject and you remember that they are debating whether one of them should starve himself to death.

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The movie also focuses on one of the prison guards. It shows the psychological toll on him of the constant tension inside and outside the prison. In the prison, the guard treats the prisoners brutally and outside the prison,  the guard’s life is constantly at risk. He does not dare start his car without first looking under it so make sure the IRA has not placed a bomb on it during the night. The guard is played by Stuart Graham. His acting skills are amazing. His part has virtually no words, so the tension and pressure in his life are shown completely with body language.

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This is an incredible film that you will long remember.

We give this movie our highest rating of Five Stars *****

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