Hunger, the film about the 1981 Hunger Strikes at the H-Blocks, gets a detailed, but negative, review from Loey Lockerby in the Kansas City Star
Rated R, and directed by the artist Steve McQueen, it has a running time of 1 hour 36 minutes, though the Star review makes it sound like it feels a lot longer - almost as if waiting for Bobby Sands to turn up is waiting for King Kong to appear, and that wait takes far too long because it uses the time:
to establish the cold brutality of the prison, as experienced by an emotionally numbed guard (Stuart Graham) and by other convicts who plan various acts of rebellion. These scenes are both unflinching and oddly poetic — they also go on forever.
At one point McQueen spends three full minutes showing a janitor mopping up a hallway, a move so boldly “artsy” it almost seems like a joke
The film received a far better review from Britain’s Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian last year, when he called it “icily brilliant”:
McQueen, screenwriter Enda Walsh and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt create a series of hard, spare scenes in which horrifyingly brutal action takes place: the compositions show how violence and hate and fear were inscribed into the very brickwork. As Sands, Fassbender gives another ferociously convincing performance and his emaciated appearance is, finally, almost unwatchable. He has a powerful scene opposite Liam Cunningham’s tough but impotently disapproving priest, which plays out in one, austerely continuous shot of the two men facing each other in profile. Stuart Graham is excellent as the Maze prison guard whose private loneliness McQueen shows, and whose fate actually makes the IRA leadership look as vengeful as gangsters.
Kansas City Irish film fans should remember Cunningham as the Dublin socialist in The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Hunger is on at the Tivoli in what it terms a SPECIAL ENGAGEMENT - for This Week Only, from May 15 to May 21, 2009:
Fri - Sun: 4:45 & 7:30
Mon - Thu: 7:30
The Tivoli is in Manor Square in Westport, in behind Kelly’s Westport Inn, at 4050 Pennsylvania.
If, like Lockerby, you feel you don’t know enough about the background to the hunger strikes to fully appreciate Hunger, the definitive book on this sad episode in British & Irish relations is Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Hunger Strike by David Beresford.