PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 May, 2009, 12:00am


Michael Fassbender, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon, Liam Cunningham

Director: Steve McQueen

First-time director Steve McQueen pulls no punches with this harrowing tale of the last days of Bobby Sands, the IRA activist who starved himself to death in jail in 1981.

A visual artist by trade, the British filmmaker frames each shot with meticulous detail - wanting his audience to breathe the same tepid air as the prisoners, to feel the same sense of frustration, and to witness the horrors of life inside. By lingering on the images, he makes the audience take the time to think about what they are watching. And it works.

Hunger is not easy viewing - nor should it be. Sands' death was brutal and McQueen sets the scene by running through the events that led up to the hunger strike - Sands' incarceration, the protest once he was inside, and the decision to make a statement by starving himself to death.

You feel for Michael Fassbender, who obviously put himself through a small dose of hell to play Sands. He too must have suffered, both physically and mentally.

Yet it is a one-sided story. Little is made of the crimes the IRA was committing at the time and that, in however small a way, leaves the viewer with some questions. Still, this does not lessen the impact of the whole affair.

As an exploration of character - and of motivation - Hunger is nothing short of a masterpiece. You become fixated with Fassbender's portrayal of Bobby Sands and by the film's end, you feel like you know him. And that's about the best a filmmaker can do. Extras: Making-of featurette.