Hunger
2008
**
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Liam McMahon, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Laine Megaw, Karen Hassan, Helen Madden, Des McAleer

In 1981, the incarcerated Ira members in the Maze prison demand to be treated as political prisoners, and their final attempt to gain attention is to go on a hunger strike. Bobby Sands, the first of the men, accepts that he will most likely die, and do so in vain. Award-winning video artist Steve McQueen makes his feature debut with this grotesque and masochistic real-life drama. The film does not condone terrorism but it does turn the perpetrators into martyrs, so what exactly is the difference? This is not a film you can easily shrug off and ignore, but it is definitely one of the least pleasurable watches I can remember. The nearly silent first 30 minutes depict the blanket/no wash protests. The naked prisoners paint the cell walls with their faeces and empty their bedpans on the floor; the guards intermittently brutalise them. The powerful 25-minute dialogue in the midsection between Sands and a Catholic priest is as close as McQueen comes to triggering an emotional response to the story. The scene, which is shot in two long and static takes, lays down the motives for the horrific third act. The long and agonising last third falls back to silence as we watch the starving Sands wither away on the hospital bed. There is no question about Fassbender’s physical dedication to his part, but I am not sure how much actual acting is involved.