It could have been a political movie like Liam Neeson's Michael Collins, but it chooses to make the politics an implied subtext of the movie and instead presents an unflinching look at the sides of the struggle and the toll it took on individual lives.
Visceral in its execution from the opening scene, there are very few movies which pack such a gut wrenching punch, and repeatedly at that. Dealing with the hunger strike of Bobby Sands played by Michael Fassbender (no relation to Rainer Fassbinder, I checked), the movie plays out as a triptych.
The first part takes us inside the prison where the Irish resistance prisoners are jailed, using poetic images which slowly turn your stomach, it would take someone with iron in their heads not to feel incarcerated themselves.
This leads onto a single take dialogue between Sands and a priest, poignant and comic in turns, the camera elaborates the conflict within the Irish people themselves about how the struggle evolved and the stage it reached.
The final segment represents one of the greatest acting performances, not just in the essaying of the character of Sands, but the physical disintegration as the body becomes the one unassailable weapon in the struggle. This final sequence also brings to a crescendo the tension the camera has been building through the movie, but as it draws to a close one is left not with an infinite number of questions but a sense of closure, it is not of the system or of the politics that we are thinking, but of the individuals, leaving us in the realm of the minutiae of life, and outside of aggrandizing philosophies.