The Fassbender Binge: All Performance No Substance (Hunger Review)

Oct 30, 2015

If the above video confuses at all, don’t worry read the following a short explanation.

Near the beginning of August, a column entitled “The ___ Binge” debuted. Its concept was simple, “…to binge specific actor-led films in which that actor is the only ‘star,’ shines the spotlight on some almost unknown up-and-comers and isn’t the typical blockbuster (i.e. indies).” And it started off with a The Joker tease “BANG!” [insert GIF here Sarah Belmont] Two posts focusing the initial binging on the backlog of Michael Fassbender were up on The GWW (dot com) and ready for reader consumption until life settled in for the writer who wrote this post that’s being read right this second. Hopefully.

The start of a new school year, the last one in fact, and a new job as a sports reporter intern. Guess what happened? Probably figured it out by now. But the vast amounts of time allowed by the summertime shrank to almost no time at all. Before it was noticed, we’re in the last week of October. So, work for GWW has started again…slowly. It kicked off with the birth and debut of a new podcast “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Scene” and it’s ending with:

That’s right. “The ___ Binge” film column is back, and from exactly where it left off too.

Before we discuss the next film binged, know this column will now be bi-weekly and a list of the upcoming/expected films to be reviewed along with the actor focus will be at the top of each post and tweeted out @werdynerdy. Send film and actor suggestions to that handle as well. Here goes nothing.

  • “Shame”
  • “Jane Eyre”
  • “A Dangerous Method”
  • “Fish Tank”
  • “Centurion”

“Hunger” has likely been glossed over by the average film-goer. A reason that speaks most on that latter sentence is it’s a hyper-indie film, including its international angle focus on Ireland. It’s the debut for its artist-turned-director, Steve McQueen, who also co-wrote the script. There’s nothing dramatic or artsy about this film, despite the background of its director. In its brief 92 minute running time, sets up the viewer in a heavily grounded and visceral look into the life of an inmate at the Belfast Maze prison. We’re eased in when a couple of prisoners are shown rubbing their s**t on the cell walls followed by full-body beat downs by the guards a few minutes later. That’s the first 25 minutes, or so, sans Fassbender.

At the 30-minute mark, we’re finally introduced to Fassbender’s character, Bobby Sands, in brutal fashion. He’s dragged out of  his cell, thrown around the hallway like he’s a garbage bag being hurled into the back of a sanitation truck and given a rather harmful hair clipping. Once we see him around the other inmates, it’s immediately apparent that he embodies a type of resiliency and leadership all the others don’t possess. He, like so many others imprisoned, are activists for the Irish Republican Army. This group’s goal is to be seen as a legitimate political organization. Obviously, they aren’t taken serious, hence the film although based on an actual historical event.

Sands realizes that, so he decides to undertake drastic measures: a hunger strike. The title should make sense now. Prior to the decision, Sands confides his plans with a Father Dominic Moran, played by “Game of Thrones” Liam Cunningham, who thinks he’s in over his head and forgetting about the people in his life that actually care for his well-being. Sands ignores Moran’s imploring.

What follows is arguably the single-best method performance ever. That’s saying something especially when dating back to Marlon Brando in “The Godfather” (’72) and as recent as  Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” (’13). Fassbender becomes more and more unrecognizable right up until the credits role. Seeing him to the point where his real-life bones were physically visible was uncomfortable to watch, sure, but it was a jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring performance that must be seen for this fact alone. Outside of that, the story and pacing cause it to become a boring mess otherwise.