Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) is a guard at Belfast's Maze prison working within an "H" block where the Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners are kept. He is a prisoner of fear himself. He worries that there is a bomb underneath his car or that the deadly silence in his neighborhood may portend some terrorist attack. He has every right to be paranoid, considering the violence he has handed out to IRA prisoners.
Meanwhile, back at the prison Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) is a new arrival in "H" block. He is severely beaten up after suggesting that he doesn't want to wear prison-issue clothing as a protest against the penal system. He arrives in a cell where the walls are covered with excrement. Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon) knows the ropes of survival and is an expert at smuggling messages written on cigarette papers out of the prison. The IRA prisoners dump buckets of their urine in the hallway outside of their cells. They are regularly beaten with clubs by the guards who seem to take great pleasure in hurting them.
Hunger is directed by Steve McQueen and co-written by him and Enda Walsh. This very intense drama revolves around the last months in the life of Irish Republican Bobby Sands who starved himself to death in 1981 over the British government's steady refusal to recognize convicted IRA members as political prisoners. The filmmaker presents brief snippets from the speeches of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which convey her hard-line approach to the Irish "Troubles."
The centerpiece scene in Hunger is a heated discussion between Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a Roman Catholic priest (Liam Cunningham) about the ethics and efficacy of the hunger strike he proposes to undergo. The two men cover all the bases of philosophy, religion, conscience, and martyrdom. The priest is stunned by Sands' deep yearning for freedom and the commitment he has to his cause. The last segment deals with the physical deterioration of the IRA leader and flashbacks to his formative years when he first sensed his special way of seeing things and his mission in life.
Hunger is a harrowing but enlightening film that leaves an indelible impression of the steely resolve and commitment to freedom of Bobby Sand. Nine other prisoners followed his example and starved themselves to death.
Special features on the DVD include video interviews with director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender; a short documentary on the making of Hunger including interviews with McQueen, actors Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, writer Enda Walsh, and producer Robin Gutch; and "The Provos' Last Card?" - a 1981 episode of the BBC program Panorama about the Maze prison hunger strikes and the political and civilian reactions across Northern Ireland.