Friday, February 12, 2010

Hunger (IRISH DVD)

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: IRA Hunger Strike Revisited via Bobby Sands Bio-Pic

This fact-based bio-pic recounts the suicide by fasting of Bobby Sands (1965-1981), a latter-day revolutionary who led an Irish Republican Army (IRA) hunger strike at Long Kesh Prison located in Northern Ireland. Bobby and nine of his comrades would perish while behind bars in pursuit of elevating their status to political prisoners so that they would no longer be treated like common criminals.
Curiously, this empathetic portrait was the brainchild not of an Irishman but of Steve McQueen (no relation), a black Brit born in London. McQueen makes an auspicious writing and directorial debut with this gritty IRA saga which measures up with the best of the genre, including In the Name of the Father (1999), Omagh (2004) and The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006).
The late Sands is played by the appropriately emaciated (Michael Fassbender) who only grows more gaunt-looking as the plot marches inexorably towards its grim end. En route, we see Bobby and company being repeatedly Abu Ghraibed by their sadistic guards, clean freaks who seem as intent on keeping the inmates bathe as in making them squeal. However, the hypocritical goons don’t apply the same sanitary standards to themselves, since they are caught reusing the same latex gloves during both anal and oral cavity searches.
Before Bobby embarks on the fast, he engages in a lengthy philosophical debate with Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) about the ethics of his plan in an uncut, 17-minute scene shot courtesy of a continuously-running camera. Obviously, the priest fails to convince the willful rebel that God doesn’t want him to die, and the balance of the flick is devoted to watch the cult hero slowly waste away.
A fitting, posthumous tribute to a martyr who freely sacrificed his own life to highlight the horror of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Let’s just pray this incendiary flick doesn’t reignite civil unrest in the region.
Bobby Sands, he’s a goner, but to Bobby ‘twas an honor.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: The Criterion Collection
DVD Extras: Restored, high-definition, digital transfer approved by director Steve McQueen, video interviews with McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender, a short documentary on “The Making of” Hunger, including interviews with McQueen, Fassbender, actors Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, and Brian Milligan, scriptwriter Enda Walsh, and producer Robin Gutch, “The Provo's Last Card?" a 1981 episode of the BBC program Panorama about the causes and effects of the IRA hunger strikes at Maze Prison and the political and civilian reactions across Northern Ireland, a theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chris Darke.

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