review: Hunger (2008)

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I didn’t grow up in Ireland during “the troubles“, I grew up in Asia but I am Irish… so I don’t what you’ll make of that but it’s just to put the review in a bit of context.

I thought Hunger was an interesting film. I know very little about Bobby Sands, I know very little about Ireland in the ’80s in general except that it wasn’t a great time and that my family left here for a reason.

I have read all sorts of views on this film though, that’s it’s romanticising Sands, that it isn’t, that it doesn’t tell you anything about what was going on, that it’s anti-British…. etc. At the end of the day Hunger is a film like any other. A film-maker makes a film then every Tom, Dick and Harry reviewer tries to tell you what the guy meant to say…. this being a review, I’m gonna tell you what I took from the film about what he was trying to say.

I don’t think Steve McQueen was trying to say anything about the IRA or the British or the views of the hunger strikers. He was just trying to make what he felt was an accurate film about what happened when Bobby Sands starved himself to death. He showed us all sides of what went on – a prison guard just doing his job, a young member of the armed police force who couldn’t face up to stress of what he had to do, a new prisoner who falls in line with what everyone else is doing, an assassin taking revenge for what he felt were good reason and yes… a young man called Bobby Sands who starves himself to death.

What he didn’t show us is why any of these people are doing what they are doing or what they think of Bobby Sands. We don’t know why the prison guard goes to work every day. We don’t why that young police officer has been sent out to the prison to help with the cavity searches. We don’t know why that assassin decides to take revenge, was he ordered to? Did he just do because he thought it was right? And we aren’t told why Bobby Sands decided to starve himself. He discusses his choice with the priest but the priest is there to provide the alternative view to what Bobby is claiming and we don’t know that the priest isn’t right.

The title of the film is Hunger and that’s what we see. It’s not called Bobby Sands or The Hunger Strikers or The Troubles and it’s not trying to tell us what to think of Maggie Thatcher or Bobby Sands or the IRA or Unionists. It just telling us that this is what happened. Make of it what you will.


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