That’s Steve McQueen the artist who everyone pretended to have heard of when this came out, a naked Warholian who recreates Buster Keaton stunts and projects them onto art gallery walls, not Steve McQueen the actor who everyone has actually heard of, who jumped a nazi barbed-wire fence on a motorcycle.
For a director who talks up innovation and rulebreaking, he’s made a rather classic-looking film, with much attention paid to capturing beautiful shots in what should be an ugly story – a hunger strike unto death by physically abused political prisoners inside the shit-smeared walls of a British prison. I expected more subjective views, more filmic art-stuff a la Diving Bell and the Butterfly (also by a former art-gallery sensationalist) but it seems most of the experimentalism was narrative, and who knows if that’s due to McQueen or experienced co-screenwriter Enda Walsh.
I ultimately got less, narratively and emotionally, than from the more conventional IRA/prison flick In the Name of the Father.
Extremely-long-take centerpiece, in which priest Liam Cunningham (Wind That Shakes The Barley, The Mummy 3) fails to talk Bobby (Michael Fassbender, the Inglorious Basterds brit who gets shot up in the basement bar):
Prison guard who gets his own arc, ending with execution in his senile mum’s lap:
Another prison guard, who does not enjoy beating prisoners: