A film about the inmates of Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison during the early 1980’s, specifically the dirty protests and hunger strikes. It helps to have a basic idea of the issues in question, but if you don’t it makes sense as a film and will encourage you to delve into them after the film.
It is a film which from the start is fantastically shot and comes across as very confident and accomplished, especially when you later learn that it is the first film from Turner award winning artist Steve McQueen. What it doesn’t come across as is partisan: it is more fly-on-the-wall documentary in style than anything. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a narrative (it does), but it allows you to have your own opinions on the issues involved (or perhaps more accurately doesn’t shy away from showing the bad aspects of all sides involved) and takes a more presentative approach, highlighting the ramifications of the situation and particularly the way in which they affect friends, families and loved ones.
It is a pretty grim account on most occasions and is quite a tough watch, but incredibly powerful.
One scene in particular with Micheal Fassbender as Bobby Sands talking/arguing with a priest is very intense and understated at the same time. The two of them are sat opposite each other at a small table, smoking, brilliantly lit and the camera is positioned side-on and static for the entire 20 minute scene as they wrangle with the issues. Michael Fassbender goes to frankly unbelievable lengths to inject awkward realism into his role, especially at the end of the story.
It leaves you with a strong sense of how lives can be ruined over situations that can perhaps be hard to comprehend for those removed.
4 on 5
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Liam Cunningham, Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham
UK Release: 31 October 2008