Hunger | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Hunger 

Hard Cell: Hunger chooses new questions over pat answers.

Pin It
Favorite
art7864widea.jpg

Real artistry is always, always startling. No matter the familiar premise, there is someone out there who can explore it with new eyes, allowing an audience to see it as though for the first time.

Dozens of features have taken the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland as their backdrop, nearly all of them terribly sincere about dealing with the drama of a country torn apart, and the fine line between “terrorist” and “freedom fighter.” But no film about the subject has been as indelibly fascinating—both viscerally and intellectually—as Steve McQueen’s Hunger.

McQueen and co-scripter Enda Walsh divide the film into three fairly distinct segments. In the first, set in 1981, we observe Irish Republican prisoners—and their guards—during the “no wash” strike in which the Republicans demanded political-prisoner status from the British government.

There’s no attempt at a straightforward narrative; there are simply snippets of daily life, from a guard soothing the bruised knuckles received after beating a prisoner to the many and varied ways friends and family pass contraband to the prisoners. It’s a dizzying, often brutal feat of impressionism, as McQueen builds the agony of a situation in which everyone on both sides winds up dehumanized.

The second act presents a jarring change of pace, but one that’s just as engrossing. It’s composed almost entirely of a 16-minute static shot, in which Republican activist Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) discusses with a priest (Liam Cunningham) his intent to begin a tothe-death hunger strike. What ensues is a complex moral interrogation: Is Sands’ plan one with a genuine political goal or merely an act of suicidal martyrdom?

By comparison, the third act—which basically observes the six-week disintegration of Sands’ body during his hunger strike—is bound to be a bit of a comedown. Yet the harsh images provide the culmination of an unflinching work of art, one that suggests asking new questions is more powerful than providing pat answers.

HUNGER

3_5_stars.gif

Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham,
Stuart Graham
Not Rated

Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of...

More by Scott Renshaw

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Power Failure

    The Assistant brilliantly captures the dynamics that protect abusers.
    • Feb 19, 2020
  • Snow Job

    Downhill remakes a dark character study as broad comedy.
    • Feb 12, 2020
  • Finding Patterns

    The subjects of Sundance 2020 films had some similarities, but it was really about how those stories were told.
    • Feb 5, 2020
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Small Gestures

    Two nuanced performances elevate familiar elements in Puzzle.
    • Aug 23, 2018
  • The Not-So-Broken Road to Acting

    Utah native Lindsay Pulsipher on the journey from Touched by an Angel to playing a war widow.
    • Sep 5, 2018

© 2020 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation