Irish republican Bobby Sands leads the inmates of a Northern Irish prison in a hunger strike.
Hunger follows life in the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland with an interpretation of the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands. With an epic eye for detail, the film provides a timely exploration of what happens when body and mind are pushed to the uttermost limit.
- The film opens with prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) preparing to leave for work; checking under his car for bombs, putting on his uniform in the locker room, and ignoring the camaraderie of his colleagues.
Davey (Brian Milligan), a new IRA prisoner, arrives at the gaol. Due to his refusal to wear the prison uniform, he is labeled "non-cooperative" and is sent to his cell naked, with only a blanket for warmth. His new roommate, Gerry (Liam McMahon), has smeared the cell with faeces from floor to ceiling and we witness their resistance to the prison regime. The two men get to know each other, as we see them living in the cell.During a visitor day, Gerry's girlfriend sneaks in a small radio by wrapping it and keeping it in her vagina.
Prison officers forcibly and violently remove the prisoners from their cells and beat them before pinning them down to cut their long hair and beards, which are grown as part their protest. The prisoners resist with Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) spitting in Lohan's face, who responds by punching him in the face and then swings again, only this time missing, and punching the wall in the process, which causes his knuckles to bleed. He cuts Sands' hair and beard, then has his men throw Sands in the bath tub and scrub him clean before hauling him away again in the same brutal manner as before. Lohan is then seen washing his hands as his hands are bloodied, in a similar way similar to the first scene.
Later, the prisoners are taken out of their cells and given second-hand civilian clothing. The guards can be seen and heard snickering, as the clothes handed to the prisoners. Sands' initial action to this process is to tear up his clothes and wreck his cell, to which the rest of the prisoners mirror in their own cells. For the next interaction with the prisoners, a large number of riot officers are seen arriving at the prison on a truck. They line up and beat their batons against their shields and scream to scare the prisoners, who are hauled from their cells, then thrown in between the lines of riot police where they are beaten with the batons by at least 10 men at one time. Lohan and several of his colleagues then probe first their anuses and then their mouths, using the same pair of latex gloves for each man. One prisoner head-butts a guard and is beaten brutally by a riot officer. One of the riot officers is seen crying while his colleagues, on the other side of the wall, brutally beat the prisoners with their batons.
Meanwhile, Lohan is shown to visiting his elderly mother in a nursing home, where he is shot in the back of the head by an unnamed IRA assassin and dies slumped onto his non-responsive mother's lap.
Sands is the final focus of the film. He deeply believes in the cause for which he was imprisoned and in the righteousness of dying for political prisoner status. In one of the film's most notable scenes, Sands debates the morality of the hunger strike with Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham). In this conversation, Sands tells the priest about a trip to Donegal where he stumbled upon a severely injured young foal by a stream. Sands drowned the foal and tells the priest that even though he got into trouble, he knew by ending its suffering, he had done what was best. He then goes on to state that he knows what he is doing (talking about the hunger strike) and what it will do to his body.
Finally, Sands is shown many weeks into his hunger strike, with sores all over his body, kidney failure, low blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and the inability to stand all by himself. In one of his last days, while Sands lies in a bath, a different prison guard/helper comes in to give his usual one a break. The new guard sits next to the tub and shows Sands his tattooed knuckles, which read: "UDA". Sands tries to stand up by himself and eventually succeeds,all whist staring defiantly at the UDA orderly who refuses to help him up. However this movement all but uses up the remaining strength he has left in his body and shortly after, he crumbles into a heap on the floor. Sands' parents stay for his final few days and when Sands dies, 66 days after beginning the strike, his mother is by his side.