Fassbender's performance is all-in; he bears all as Brandon, and the viewer finds his behavior so wretched and despicable, yet we spur him onward by continuing to watch. Carey Mulligan also delivers a tremendous but nuanced role as Brandon's sister, appropriately named Sissy. In some movies, a musical number like Sissy's "New York, New York" might seem superfluous and over the top, but it is almost essential in this case.
But the highest praise must go to the man behind the lens. McQueen's ability to say so much with so few words is simply unprecedented. It lacks dialogue in the vein of another 2011 film, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. What's different about Shame is that it doesn't seem to be missing anything; rather, the words just aren't necessary. A furrowed brow and carefully measured eye movements tell the story sufficiently and perhaps even better. There is no better example than Brandon's two encounters with married women on the train, one near the beginning of the film as well as the final shot. Similarly, the lack of a soundtrack is both gritty and real, minimalist by function rather than style.
Furthermore, McQueen's ability to turn sex into a sort of character in itself is amazing. Few, if any, people can turn what is a common occurrence in cinema into something more. In this case, it is almost as if sex - or more precisely, sexual deviancy - is a sort of devil that has found it's way into a man's soul. Finally, I must point out the long tracking shot of Michael Fassbender jogging on the concrete sidewalks of New York. Both technically and artistically, it is nothing short of an achievement. Absolutely stunning, now to watch Hunger.
Brilliant performances by Fassbender and Mulligan.
Fassbender is memorising ticking time bomb which keeps the film flowing at a reasonable pace. He's cool, calm but rotates almost immediately to pure lust, hatred, and relentless emotion which simmers all to Carey Mulligan's Sissy. The two are troubled, damaged and broken for any love or interaction with each other, or any one for that matter. This is McQueen's powerful study, not just with sex addiction, but also with subjects which hardly ever gets a mention.
Fassbender's Brandon is a spiralling mess, getting progressively worse as the film goes on, never really showing a redeeming attribute that he will get help. Which brings me to the films downfall.
Shame is a masterclass in acting, Fassbender deserves nothing but praise. The film is sometimes hard to watch as Brandon slowly descends into a hollow shell. But this is exactly what the film entails. I suppose at some point I expected redemption from Brandon, but he is, like I said, a bomb ready to explode. Quite frankly, its a very lonely, empty film which in the end, leaves with an ambiguous question mark.