Tedious Political Drama
Release Date: December 05, 2008
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Stuart
Graham, Helena Bereen, Larry
Cowan, Liam Cunningham, and
Runtime: 96 minutes
Distributor: IFC Films
Director: Steve McQueen
Executive Producer: Iain Canning, Peter Carlton,
Edmund Coulthard, Linda James,
and Joan Younghusband
Producer: Robin Gutch and Laura
Writer: Steve McQueen and Enda Walsh
Address Comments To:Jonathan Sehring, President, IFC Films/IFC Entertainment
Joshua Sapan, President/CEO, Rainbow Media Holdings LLC
(Independent Film Channel/IFC Films/IFC First Take/AMC/WE)
11 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 324-8500
There is nothing more to the movie than this simple plot. Much time is spent with characters staring into space and many sequences of prisoners being beaten by prison guards.
The movie suffers from no exposition. Viewers are told very little of the Northern Ireland conflicts in the 1980s and have no context for which to understand the cause for which Bobby Sands is willing to die. In fact, only through research outside of the movie can a viewer understand that the prisoners who were arrested for firearm possession and involvement in IRA-sponsored bombings refused to wear prison uniforms, because they wanted status as political prisoners. Consequently, the prisoners are forced to live naked in the prisons. Because of their “no wash” protest, the prisoners are forcibly “bathed,” often brutally. Without that background knowledge, however, these actions are senseless.
HUNGER purports to be experimental, but it often relies on very tedious takes in long shot. In fact, it boasts a 17-minute two shot of two characters talking. While it may be artistic on some level, it is mostly boring. The filmmakers have a message of the martyrdom of Bobby Sands, but continually make choices that keep viewers from not understanding the characters and their passion and keep viewers from even caring about them.
In addition to these problems, characters are introduced but never seen again, and the main protagonist is not introduced until after at least a half hour into the movie.
There are terribly disturbing images which are intended to build sympathy for the prisoners. The prisoners are beaten by guards, stripped and other humiliating acts. Viewers must watch Sands die of starvation slowly and agonizingly.
While the Irish conflicts are against a backdrop of Catholic and Protestant rivalry, the main religious scene is a long discussion between Sands and a priest, including a debate on whether the thief on the cross next to Jesus got off easy or not. Sands professes his Catholic beliefs but “smokes the Bible,” using pages to roll cigarettes. Sands’ mother does pray and crosses herself while he is dying. The priest tells Sands that the hunger strike is the same as suicide and that God will punish him for that. Earlier there is a scene of a service, but the prisoners mostly ignore it. Thus, the movie’s anti-Christian content seems to overwhelm its Christian content. In fact, the movie seems to have a very strong Romantic, anti-English worldview where the repression of English society corrupts both sides, but especially the English rulers.
All in all, there’s very little in HUNGER to offer media-wise viewers.
HUNGER suffers from no exposition. Viewers are told very little of the Northern Ireland conflicts in the 1980s and have no context for which to understand the cause for which Bobby Sands is willing to die. In fact, only through research outside of the movie can a viewer understand what’s going on in the plot. HUNGER is a tedious political movie with terribly disturbing images of extreme violence, explicit nudity, and Christian and anti-Christian content. All in all, there’s very little in HUNGER to offer media-wise viewers.