1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)
In all honesty I was a little ignorant to most of the issues surrounding the Troubles before watching this film. This film doesn't really help out with any of that ignorance but the politics of the story are not the central themes. It's ultimately an emotional tale about people willing to do almost anything it takes for their message to be heard and their rights to be restored. Visually and cinematographically the film is a success, memorable images a plenty and some very memorable scenes. The last 30 minutes of the film are very difficult to watch and I have no idea how Michael Fassbender lost so much weight without actually dying - his skeletal frame is far more disturbing than Brody's in The Pianist or Bale's in The Machinist. However, the film for me failed in several areas.
First and foremost, it is an arthouse film. If you are looking for "entertainment" then go watch something else because this is a complex and disturbing tale about the human psyche which gives very little away. McQueen puts the pieces in place but it is the audience's job to do the bulk of the work - I myself prefer these sort of films as I'm sure most others here do but if that's not your cup of tea then I suggest you buy a more conventional film. It's brooding and stays with you for days but I have to question some of McQueen's directorial decisions. This film is perhaps most famous for the unbroken 17 minute shot in which Sands converses with the prison chaplain about the pros/cons/moral implications/etc of his planned hunger strike. I have to say, for me, I question the purpose of this unbroken shot. It's certainly nowhere near the same standard as some of Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock's longer shots as the camera is fixed - this means that we only see half of both characters faces for the entire 17 minutes. This - combined with the dim, brooding lighting of the scene - was a distraction more than a piece of cinematic philosophy or exposition. I found that during the entire film this shot was the weakest moment, only seeing half of the characters made it more difficult to engage and relate to them. I'm simply not sure why McQueen chose this shot or what he was trying to say with it, it certainly doesn't really add anything to the film - and at times is in danger of taking something away from it.
I think that you're not missing anything by not seeing this film but I still think it's worth investigating just because of the interesting directorial choices made. Whether you agree with my comments on the 17 minute shot or not the most important thing is that I am discussing it, which ultimately is one of the purposes of art. And this film is certainly a piece of art.