Steve McQueen directs Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham and Brian Milligan in this true story of IRA political prisoner Bobby Sands’ hunger strike following an unsuccessful ‘no wash’ rebellion in the Maze Prison.
One of McQueen’s lauded but unpleasant wallows in pretentious misery that kickstarted his career. I prefer his warmer, more recent work. There’s no way you can watch nameless beardy prisoners smear shit on a wall for half an hour with occasional breaks to be brutalised and tell me this is the cinema you want to watch. No matter how well intentioned and carefully crafted. It is a combative art project, there to document cruelty the target market middle classes are now safely distant from and an oppression they still benefit from… as if witnessing it filmed with an artist’s eye for detail somehow omits their roles and complicity in the process. McQueen’s film does have strength among all its Guardian reader exploitation. The Brit security services are given surprisingly fair glimmers of humanity as the continual degradation takes it emotional toll even on them. The Babylon breaks even the paid bully. Fassbender and Cunningham stage a perfectly acted, one shot 20 minute play as a sympathetic priest tries to talk Sands through his motivations on visiting day. Sands story should be told and this is less hypocritical than a sanitised Hollywood biopic that thankfully will never be greenlit… but who is it really for? Sadism as art.
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We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/