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The story of Bobby Sands, the IRA member who led the 1981 hunger strike in which Republican prisoners tried to win political status. It dramatises events in the Maze prison in the six weeks prior to Sands’ death.

December 05, 2008

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Reviewed by mutuel

Politics can be a tricky affair. Mix affairs of the state with military intervention and odds are good that something explosive can arise. Back to the troubled period of Irish history we go with Hunger, an outstanding portrait of the penal system from first time director Steve McQueen. Learn a lesson in history from this Maple Pictures release that’s now waking people up at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking).

Stark images will haunt you once you step inside a maximum security prison during the Margaret Thatcher years. Once inside this institution you come face to face with IRA prisoners, including the infamous Bobby Sands. Based on a true event Hunger examines the dynamics inside those cement walls. Troublesome in the extreme, we bear witness to the tactics used by the authorities to keep the prisoners in line. Alas, it’s not a pretty sight.

Communications with the outside is forbidden though these condemned men do enjoy family visits. Ingenious methods are used by the prisoners and their supporters to try to circumvent the security that’s almost always on them. Late at night, however, it’s the guards turn to “manage” their locked up charges. Brute force is used with zeal as guards do their utmost to humiliate and break down these convicted men.

Deep inside the psyche we go of Bobby Sands to see just what the Irish Republican Army is fighting for and what they have planned up their sleeve. Rumours of a hunger strike take on a life of their own as for 96 minutes you feel numb by the actions that go on behind closed doors in this government run, parliament sanctioned institution.

Cast as Bobby Sands in a mesmerizing performance is Michael Fassbender (300) who conveys a sense of idealism and desperation as the leader of a jailhouse movement with national ramifications. Just as gripping are the words from a priest trying to make sense out of the whole Belfast situation of the day. Father Moran does his best to help those men facing monumental decisions and is well brought forth by Liam Cunningham (The Wind That Shakes the Barley).

Use of graphic footage showing mistreatment inside this jail will doubtlessly trouble some. Gut check time will come for all brave enough to explore Hunger, a shocking and outstanding retelling of a real event that changed history.

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