Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

UK / Ireland 2008
Directed by
Steve McQueen
96 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


Pound for pound, “The Troubles” in Ireland have generated more than their fair share of intense films. From In the Name of the Father (1993) to Five Minutes of Heaven (2009) the results are passionately-told stories of injustice and systematic cruelty. Steve McQueen’s film is no exception. In a clinically sparse way it tells the story of Bobby Sands, who infamously was the first of 10 IRA prisoners who died during a hunger strike in the Maze prison in Belfast in the early 80s during the Thatcher years.
Bar an extended conversation between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and his confessor, Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) there is little dialogue, the film being largely given over to depicting the brutality with which the IRA prisoners were treated. I assume that this is historically verifiable and on that basis it is doubly shocking. The real horror, however, is Sands’ slow death. Fassbender who lost some 40 pounds in a Christian Bale-like instance of Method acting must be acknowledged for his dedication to the role. When one hears in the film the doctor telling Sands’ parents about the impact of malnutrition one wonders what possessed the actor. But that is what I mean  - the subject matter seems to draw out this extraordinary commitment. If only film could have real political effect perhaps it would perhaps be justified. Harrowing to watch for an audience at least it can be said to give some extra longevity to the astonishing self-sacrifice of Sands and his fellow prisoners.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst