You can call me a Steve McQueen fanboy (See the link to my 12 Years a Slave review below). Even though he has only directed 3 movies, each of them are consistently beautiful and painful. McQueen has a knack for showing light even in the darkest of times, whether it is the beautiful scenery in 12 Years a Slave, or the singing of Carey Mulligan in Shame, McQueen has gotten better with each of his films.

So how well does his first film do in establishing his credibility?

Pretty darn well.

Taking place in the early 80s in the Maze prison in Ireland, Hunger is about the prisoners who are members of the IRA. Bobby Sands, played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, starts a hunger strike.

The brutality of the guards is apparent within the first several minutes of the film, as they savagely beat and humiliate the prisoners. The prisoners also make things hard for the guards, smearing feces on the walls of their cells and urinating so it leaks out into the hallways. McQueen, like he will do in his later films, does not hold back.

The movie is all about the performances, and McQueen lets the actors hold their own. One scene in particular is just two characters talking, for about 17 minutes, in a single take. It is an incredible scene and we never lose interest.

I must admit I am a bit uneducated in the conflicts involving the IRA and the British government, and the movie does not necessarily spell things out for you about what is going on. So if you want to watch this movie, maybe you should crack open a textbook or check Wikipedia. Actually, just click the hyperlink and you’ll be sent to the page all about it.

Reportedly Michael Fassbender went on a crash-diet, which is basically just starving yourself, and you can really see the effects. There is no CGI, he is just bones and skin, and it is a haunting image because these people actually willingly did this to themselves in order to achieve equality.

Any fan of McQueen or Fassbender needs to see this movie. If you have any interest at all in the IRA and that area of history, then you should most definitely check this out. Just be wary, this movie is not for the faint of heart. None of McQueen’s movies are. But they raise questions, they are beautiful films that deal with dark ideas, and they make you see the true nature of the world, not the sugarcoated version Hollywood tries to make you see.