On March 1, 1981, Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands led a hunger strike in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison. Sixty-six days later, he died at the age of 27, a shriveled-up version of his former self. British director Steve McQueen’s chilling, superbly crafted vision of the events leading up to Sands’ death doesn’t conform to predicable patterns of political filmmaking. The movie unfolds in distinct, commanding vignettes ranging from the elegiac (a prisoner’s hand caresses a bee) to the heart-thumpingly brutal (when riot police crack down on the inmates). Hunger does not simply chronicle a historic act of protest; it renders it timeless and transcendent.
This review is from the March-April 2009 issue of Utne Reader.