Before taking up directing, Steve McQueen (director of this year’s 9-time Oscar nominated, ’12 Years a Slave’), was a Turner Prize winning artist . . . and you can tell.
However, with his debut feature, ‘Hunger’, he hadn’t quite made the jump from art installations to emotionally wholesome films. While this film about the Northern Irish hunger strikes in the 1980s features innumerable exquisitely measured and often breathtakingly beautiful images, as an emotional whole, it falls disappointingly flat.
Apart from an interesting, but misjudged, single-shot dialogue scene lasting 17 minutes, the script is painfully threadbare and instead features a series of vignettes all seemingly based around an uncomfortable fixation with human bodily fluids. Those filth covered walls should mean something, but instead they just animalise the few prisoners we meet, which goes no way to converting us to their cause.
Soon after ‘that’ scene, though, Michael Fassbender delivers the one truly moving moment in the entire film. He details a particular childhood experience so perfectly you are swept away and soon engulfed by his tale. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew it meant something and that’s more than can be said for the rest of the film.
It’s technically masterful, but ‘Hunger’ is a missed opportunity to tell a heart-wrenchingly powerful tale of the foundations of a revolution.