It revolves around the Maze Prison during The Troubles, and the various ways they protest to regain their political status (revoked by the British government in 1976), starting with "no-wash" protests and ending in a hunger strike — as led by Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands (Fassbender).
Hunger premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Caméra d'Or award (an honor for first-time filmmakers) as well as several more awards throughout the 2008-2009 European circuit.
Tropes used in Hunger include:
- Animal Motifs: The image of black birds is used throughout the film to symbolize Bobby's soul leaving his body as a result of his strike.
- As he convulses in his bed, the image flashes momentarily several times.
- Immediately after he dies, we see birds flying away into the sky.
- Bilingual Bonus: Longtime prisoner Gerry Campbell attempts to converse with his new cellmate Davey Gillen in Irish, but it becomes quickly apparent that Gillen has no knowledge of the language.
- Body Horror: Betw of Bobby's hunger strike is the formation of multiple gaping sores on his back.
- Dies Wide Open: Bobby in the end.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The prisoners' puddles of urine all flow into one continuous stream on the floor of their cellblock, which later on in the film is swept away by a prison guard.
- Excrement Statement: The purpose of the "dirty protests", where the prisoners smear their feces all over the walls of their cells and urinate out into the hallway.
- Fan Disservice: Continuous male Full Frontal Nudity would be appealing to some, except in this case the males are unwashed, unnaturally thin, and often abused by prison officers.
- Foregone Conclusion: The American DVD box tells you that it involves "[Bobby] Sands' last days." Needless to say, he dies in the end.
- Leave the Camera Running: Long shots of walls, corridors, hands, etc. being washed.
- Imagine Spot: Just before Bobby dies, he vividly experiences a memory of himself jogging in the woods as a child. He also imagines being visited by his child self several times.
- Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted; prison officer Raymond hurts his hand pretty badly after punching the wall by accident.
- Mercy Kill: Bobby tells the story of an injured foal that he and his friends found at a young age. And that he took the initiative to end its suffering, knowing that it was the right thing to do.
- Mood Whiplash: At multiple points, the tone of a scene shifts dramatically at an instant.
- Bobby, Davey and Gerry are all sitting idly in their rooms...before Bobby begins screaming, shouting, and trashing his room, inciting Davey and Gerry to do the same.
- Prison officer Raymond Lohan is visiting his catatonic mother in her nursing home...before an IRA assassin calmly walks in and puts a bullet in his head.
- My God, What Have I Done?: During the riot squad scene, the focus subtly shifts to one riot officer who seems more timid than the rest; when he gets headbutted by a prisoner, he immediately lashes out, beating him viciously with his nightstick. We then see him isolated outside of the room, breaking down in tears, horrified at his actions.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Some of the prisoners get brutally beaten by a collection of riot officers.
- The Oner: Several count as Leave the Camera Running. Particularly notable is a scene where Bobby Sands and his priest discuss the upcoming hunger strike; it goes for 17 and a half minutes, a record length.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Almost. Bobby Sands dies, 9 more men die after him, and their goal (the status of political prisoner) is never completely accomplished. They do, however, get equivalent rights granted to the prisoners.
- Silence Is Golden: Much of the film goes by with little to no dialogue.
- Traumatic Haircut: Bobby's introductory scene shows him getting one while having his head pinned to a seat, ridding him of the hair he'd grown out during the dirty protest.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: The movie never stops to explain why the prisoners refuse to wash, wear blankets, etc. Heck, even what Irish Republicanism is is barely mentioned in the film.
- As the film is British, most of its viewers would be aware of Northern Ireland's political history and the wash protests and hunger strikes.