Hunger follows life in the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland with an interpretation of the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender). With an epic eye for detail, the film provides a timely exploration of what happens when body and mind are pushed to the uttermost limit.
The film opens with prison officer Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) preparing to leave for work doing his usual routine; cleaning his bloodied knuckles, checking under his car for bombs, and putting on his uniform in the locker room. The next scene is IRA member Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) arriving at prison and being categorized as a “non-conforming prisoner” for his refusal to wear the prison uniform because he wants to be known as a political prisoner.
He is sent to the cell naked with only a blanket. He arrives at his cell where his cellmate, Gerry (Liam McMahon), has smeared the walls with feces from floor to ceiling. The two men get to know each other and during visits with their family members, we see Sands speak with his parents and the other inmates and their visitors passing messages across tables and through mouths.
The prison regime is depicted with the prison officers forcibly and violently removing the prisoners from their cells and beating them before pinning them down and using scissors to cut their long hair and beards, grown as part of their no wash protest. The prisoners resist, Sands spitting into Lohan’s face, who responds by punching him in the face. Later, when the prisoners riot wrecking their cells, one of the riot officers is seen crying while his colleagues, on the other side of the wall, brutally beat the prisoners with their batons.
Sands is then shown meeting his priest Father Dom (Liam Cunningham) and discussing the morality of a hunger strike. This meeting is lengthy and addresses why Sands chose to do what he did and how strongly he believed in his cause. The rest of the film shows Sands well into his hunger strike, with bleeding sores all over his body, kidney failure, low blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and the inability to stand on his own by the end. The film spares no detail in Sands’ condition and suffering.
Director: Steve McQueen
Year of Release: 2008
Character to watch: Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?