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Hunger (2008)



Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 115
Fresh: 104 | Rotten: 11

Unflinching, uncompromising, vivid and vital, Steve McQueen's challenging debut is not for the faint hearted, but it's still a richly rewarding retelling of troubled times.


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 29
Fresh: 25 | Rotten: 4

Unflinching, uncompromising, vivid and vital, Steve McQueen's challenging debut is not for the faint hearted, but it's still a richly rewarding retelling of troubled times.



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Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 72,508

My Rating

Movie Info

The final months of Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army activist who protested his treatment at the hands of British prison guards with a hunger strike, are chronicled in this historical drama, the first feature film from artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen. Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) is an IRA volunteer who is sentenced to Belfast's infamous Maze prison, where he shares a cell with fellow IRA member Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon). Like most of the IRA volunteers behind bars, Gillen and

Feb 16, 2010

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All Critics (117) | Top Critics (31) | Fresh (104) | Rotten (11) | DVD (7)

Midway through the movie there's an epic 24-minute the claustrophobic cell block the protesters have already internalized their cause so deeply that the world of words seems distant and inconsequential.

April 17, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a strength of this carefully composed, almost obsessively controlled picture that it has no interest in the conventional biographical focus on a subject.

April 17, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
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Hunger is daunting and powerful work.

April 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Hunger is not about the rights and wrongs of the British in Northern Ireland, but about inhumane prison conditions, the steeled determination of IRA members like Bobby Sands, and a rock and a hard place.

April 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
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Hunger -- the disturbing, provocative, brilliant feature debut from British director Steve McQueen -- does for modern film what Caravaggio did to Renaissance painting.

April 10, 2009 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
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Relying on images more than words, it's a plea for humanity in times of insanity.

April 10, 2009 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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In the desolate surrounds of a prison environment that affronts humanity McQueen finds the redemptive struggles, and unrelenting spirit in the feces smeared walls of a British prison.

January 21, 2013 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

...simultaneously harsh and gentle; an early shot of a tiny snowflake melting on bloodied knuckles could serve as the movie's logo.

November 15, 2011 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm

Hunger will leave you feeling emotionally battered and bruised -- yet emerging from the cinema a stronger person for having witnessed such a beautiful and brutal film.

July 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

Not just the toughest film of the year but amongst the toughest ever made.

April 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Dark Horizons
Dark Horizons

Hunger is tough going -- and compelling cinema throughout.

April 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Hollywood & Fine
Hollywood & Fine

Politically, Bobby Sands' suicide meant nothing, but it illustrated poisonous lengths to which someone would go in protecting the only reality he ever knew. This is terrorism's pox, and why the Troubles - though stabilized - still bear the scars of shame.

September 24, 2010 Full Review Source:

As pretentious as it is engrossing...

July 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Director Steve McQueen delivers one the more memorable debut features of the last several years.

May 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

a film of great visceral directness and emotional power

April 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk | Comment (1)
Q Network Film Desk

A poetic, almost abstract take on very real, tangible material -- a fitting artistic approach to a surreal, extreme experience most human beings will not have on their own.

March 3, 2010 Full Review Source: Window to the Movies
Window to the Movies

... a study in the deterioration of the human body... and the will it takes to endure such self-mortification in the name of cause.

February 17, 2010 Full Review Source:

Spurious transcendence and underlined symbolism

August 25, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

Yes, "Hunger" is a fairly nasty affair and we don't even get to the starvation part until the third act.

July 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

If you're going to make a film about an extremist, it makes sense to tell the story using extreme or at least unusual techniques.

June 7, 2009 Full Review Source:

It's as stubbornly inscrutable as its subjects.

May 15, 2009
Kansas City Star

"Hunger" pushes through the cliches of both prison films and political films to make something original, powerful and hard to shake.

May 8, 2009 Full Review Source: Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Seriously brutal.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Steve McQueen's Hunger is a daring, brutal, vital piece of filmmaking.

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Retriever
Movie Retriever

An alternately harrowing and poetic take on the fatal 1982 hunger strike of Irish Republican Army prisoner Bobby Sands, Hunger is also one of the most impressive feature directing debuts in years.

April 17, 2009 Full Review Source: Oregonian

Audience Reviews for Hunger

To me, the whole film boils down to the long conversation, between Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Father Moran (Liam Cunningham), a scene that takes up about a quarter of the movie but keeps you riveted throughout. Much uglier depiction of the prison conditions for Irish Republicans than, say, In the Name of the Father, and in my opinion, a much less sympathetic film, too - McQueen's work does a lot more documenting than inspiring and the work hits pretty hard, in all.
March 10, 2013

Super Reviewer

Well, that was depressing. But holy monologue, Fassbender!
December 27, 2012

Super Reviewer

Steve McQueen's debut feature is a stunning picture about the 1981 hunger strike carried out by members of the IRA. What I love about Steve McQueen (not to be confused with actor of the same name) is his knack for telling a thought provoking story that is superbly acted and paced. He is fast becoming one of the best filmmakers around. With a powerful cast lead by Michael Fassbender, Hunger is a must drama that recounts this ordeal with a sense of surrealism. This is a film that relies on good acting, effective directing and a good plot to tell its story, and it delivers something truly remarkable. As far as I'm concerned, this is among the most impressive debuts for a filmmaker that I have seen in quite some time and it proves that you can pull something special with just basic elements. McQueen's use of a stripped down approach to telling a story works because he knows how to deliver something unique with what he's trying to say. He is a gifted filmmaker and his talents would only benefit him even more with his second picture, Shame. The fact that this film was based on real events only adds to the entertaining value of the film, and you simply cannot tear yourself away due to the fact that the men who carried out the strike were prepared to die for what they believed in. That for me just makes Hunger a must see picture due to the fact that it is a well crafted drama that has a truly compelling story and acted, directed by very talented people. This is a film you soon won't forget.
December 14, 2012
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

In 2011, "Shame" was released. It was a powerful piece of cinema and one of the most provocative and controversial film's of the year. It was also one of the very best. But if you look back to 2008 and this previous collaboration with director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender, you'll realise that provocative and hard-hitting filmmaking is something these two, seemingly excel at.
In Northern Ireland, 1981, Irish revolutionary inmates in the Maze prison begin a protest to attain political status and not to be seen as criminals. Their demands are refused by the British Government so one man, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), leads a hunger strike. This was a defiant act against tyrannical British rule and one that would reverberate internationally.
I find it hard to be subjective in my views of the atrocities that the British Government imposed upon the Irish revolutionary movement. I'm disgusted and appalled at some of the parliamentary decisions and I make no excuses for my prejudices toward Margaret Thatcher either. The hunger strike of 1981, is a shameful and atrocious piece of history, of which, she was at the forefront. It's a time in history that many will want to forget, but here, director Steve McQueen paints a vivid and unflinching portrayal of these harsh times and conditions. He starts by informing us that 2,187 people have been killed in "the troubles" since 1969 and that the British Govt have withdrawn the political status of all paramilitary prisoners. Irish republicans in the Maze Prison are on a 'blanket' and 'no wash' protest. We are then introduced to a prison guard, bathing his bloodied knuckles in water. Primarily, the warden we follow seems to be torn and struggling. However, it's soon apparent that these prison wardens are only upholding the state, so sympathy wains. There is a struggle at heart here and the British Govt has a lot to answer for. Rearing her ugly head, Margaret Thatcher is overheard on a radio broadcast, refusing to accept any form of "political or criminal violence". Anyone familiar with her time in office will be aware of her sheer hypocrisy here. She was known as "The Iron Lady", no better than a fascist and throughout her time in power, was the very catalyst for many wrongdoings. My opinion may come across as biased but the atrocities that these young men faced in the fight for freedom is abhorrent. What this film has in it's ultimate favour though, is that it doesn't preach. It states the facts and for this, McQueen deserves the utmost credit and respect. Despite the grim material, we are afforded moments of artistic beauty; McQueen lingers long on shots and uses dialogue sparsely. At one point though, he film's a highly impressive 20-minute conversation about semantics and political rhetoric and does it without cuts. It's a bold move that could stop the film in it's tracks but actually, what it does, is reinforce the belief that this is a highly artistic and confident filmmaker you are witnessing. He even takes his time (about half an hour) to introduce our protagonist Bobby Sands and it's here, he is aided immeasurably by his lead actor; Michael Fassbender's transformation from a passionate healthy prisoner to one of starved frailty is astonishing and it's easy to see why he made a name for himself after this. He truly is one of the very best and bravest actors around at present.
Rarely have political drama's been so raw, unnerving and emotionally devastating. This is by no means easy viewing but it's certainly important and essential viewing and it heralded the arrival of a visionary director and intense performer.
McQueen manages that rare achievement of delivering a piece of work that is both brutal and harsh yet touching and quite beautiful. This is raw and unflinching material that is told candidly and without reservation. Simply stunning.
July 18, 2012

Super Reviewer

    1. Father Dominic Moran: The Brits have been fucking up everything for centuries.
    – Submitted by Panta O (7 months ago)
    1. The Governor: There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing, political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing, and criminal violence. There will be no political status.
    – Submitted by Claudia F (18 months ago)
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Foreign Titles

  • Hunger (2008) (CA)
  • Hunger (2008) (ES)
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