Hunger (2009) - Rotten Tomatoes

Hunger (2009)



Critic Consensus: 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.

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 Campbell are subjected to frequent violence by the guards, who in turn live with the constant threat of assassination at the hands of Republicans during their off-hours. Campbell and Gillen are taking part in a protest in which they and their fellow IRA inmates are refusing to wear standard prison-issue uniforms as a protest against Britain's refusal to recognize them as political prisoners, a move that is complicating their efforts to pass information among the other prisoners. As the protest fails to get results, one IRA member behind bars, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), decides to take a different tack and begins a hunger strike, refusing to eat until Irish officials are willing to acknowledge the IRA as a legitimate political organization. However, while Sands' protest gains the attention both inside prison walls and in the international news, not everyone believes what he's doing is right, and Sands finds himself verbally sparring with a priest (Liam Cunningham) who questions the ethics and effectiveness of the strike. Hunger received its world premiere at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened as part of the Un Certain Regard program. ~ Mark Deming, Rovimore
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Special Interest
Directed By: ,
Written By: Steve McQueen (III), Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen
In Theaters:
On DVD: Feb 16, 2010
IFC Films - Official Site


Michael Fassbender
as Bobby Sands
Liam Cunningham
as Father Moran
Stuart Graham
as Ray Lohan
Helena Bereen
as Ray's Mother
Larry Cowan
as Prison Guard
Karen Hassan
as Gerry's Girlfriend
Laine Megaw
as Mrs. Lohan
Frank McCusker
as The Governor
Lalor Roddy
as William
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Hunger

Critic Reviews for Hunger

All Critics (122) | Top Critics (33)

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.

Full Review… | April 17, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

There is no attempt to set Sands up as a great martyr, no Jesus pose or sentimental music to manipulate emotions. Hunger is interested in none of this. Instead, [McQueen] lets the bodies that sacrificed themselves tell the story they created.

Full Review… | December 12, 2015
Tiny Mix Tapes

The stylistic palette of McQueen's picture, and its grasp of cinematic vocabulary, elevate the film to a purely visceral realm, so that it seems to bypass your eyes and ears and go straight for your nerve endings.

Full Review… | November 2, 2015
New Statesman

Mr. Sands's story loosely serves as a framework that joins together a series of filmic gallery installations that graphically explore the fragility of the human body.

Full Review… | October 7, 2015
Critic's Notebook

McQueen thus succeeds in manufacturing a palpable intensity (some of it very difficult to watch), but retreats into individual subjectivity when it might do better to open out into the larger political arena.

Full Review… | August 2, 2015
Stop Smiling

In such extreme circumstances, the human body may be the last desperate frontier of protest. Hunger makes this all too clear.

Full Review… | June 1, 2015

Audience Reviews for Hunger


McQueen's debut is gripping and intense, with some amazing long takes and a disturbing story that depicts the horrendous impact of a hunger strike on the human body, even though I don't like how the plot is suddenly deviated from Davey Gillen to Bobby Sands.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

I have never seen such a brutal, gut-wrenching prison film in my life! Complex emotionally and philosophically, the tensions never let up. Fassbender's commitment to the role is nothing short of astounding. The inhumanity and control of McQueen's first film towers above that of even his Oscar award winning "12 Years A Slave". If you're looking for raw, honest but brutal reality, this is a film for you.

Christian C

Super Reviewer


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.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Hunger Quotes

– Submitted by Panta O (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Claudia F (3 years ago)

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