Starred Up


Starred Up

Critics Consensus

Smart, hard-hitting, and queasily realistic, Starred Up is an instant classic of U.K. prison cinema.



Total Count: 112


Audience Score

User Ratings: 16,801
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Movie Info

19-year-old Eric (Jack O'Connell, star of the upcoming UNBROKEN), arrogant and ultra-violent, is prematurely transferred to the same adult prison facility as his estranged father (Ben Mendelsohn, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES). As his explosive temper quickly finds him enemies in both prison authorities and fellow inmates - and his already volatile relationship with his father is pushed past breaking point - Eric is approached by a volunteer psychotherapist (Rupert Friend, "Homeland"), who runs an anger management group for prisoners. Torn between gang politics, prison corruption, and a glimmer of something better, Eric finds himself in a fight for his own life, unsure if his own father is there to protect him or join in punishing him. Written by prison system therapist Jonathan Asser, STARRED UP is a merciless, uncompromising portrayal of a dehumanizing life behind bars, and the most accomplished film of David Mackenzie's career; as father and son, Mendelsohn and O'Connell give extraordinary performances, charting a path that resembles Greek tragedy. (c) Tribeca Films


Sam Spruell
as Governor Hayes
Frederick Schmidt
as Officer Gentry
Edna Caskey
as Officer Evans
Darren Hart
as MacDonald
Duncan Airlie James
as Officer White
Basil Abdul
as Latif-Mubarak
Matt Faris
as Officer Hal
Aisha Walters
as Nurse Bankford
Tommy McDonnell
as Officer Self
James Doran (II)
as Officer Smith
Ian Beattie
as Officer Johnson
C.C. Smiff
as Officer Corsair
Sian Breckin
as Governor Cardew
Jonathan Asser
as Officer Edwards
Patrick Rocks
as Officer Henry
Ryan McKenna
as O'Sullivan
Anthony Adjekum
as Officer Wilson
Amma Boateng
as Officer Stokes
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News & Interviews for Starred Up

Critic Reviews for Starred Up

All Critics (112) | Top Critics (27) | Fresh (111) | Rotten (1)

  • Mackenzie is seeking to understand how all this explosive male energy can co-exist under such brutal conditions, and the answer is with great difficulty.

    Sep 22, 2016 | Full Review…
  • Director David Mackenzie has empathy for the characters, but also knows how to ratchet up the tension and make the scene of mayhem pack a wallop.

    Sep 25, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Take one teenager. Add raw testosterone. Arm with unquenchable, unreasoning anger. Lock in pressure-cooker cell. Unleash. Roll camera.

    Sep 23, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • [An] unusually cohesive and exciting prison drama ...

    Sep 22, 2014 | Full Review…

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • "Starred Up" manages to be sympathetic, not only because of O'Connell's galvanizing turn, but also Asser and director David Mackenzie's unwavering commitment to portraying his character with as much compassion as brutal honesty.

    Sep 18, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's almost as difficult to sit through "Starred Up" as it is satisfying to watch it.

    Sep 11, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Starred Up

  • Jun 08, 2016
    Cracking film that grabs you by the throat from the start and doesn't let go.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 29, 2015
    Yes it's brutal, but also achingly sad. Asser's screenplay and Mackenzie's direction achieve a lot with very little . . . giving the audience total immersion into the world and understanding of the characters with none of the unnecessary verbal exposition you'd expect. Also, O'Connell's performance is an explosion of brilliance. It announces him as a major new talent.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 02, 2015
    Filled with violence, grit, and palpable tension, Starred Up is a difficult yet wholly rewarding watch about the horrors of prison life and the psychological torment it inflicts on inmates. The film follows Eric, a volatile and unpredictable 19-year-old who is admitted into an adult prison where he must endure and defend himself against older, hardened convicts. Jack O'Connell provides a powerfully impactful performance as Eric, whose only aid comes in the form of a group therapist named Oliver, though Eric's therapy sessions seem to result in only more anger and frustration. It is not long before Eric discovers he is residing in the same prison as his estranged father, Neville, whose presence is both a blessing and a curse in the prison setting. Both Oliver and Neville attempt to help and protect Eric inside the prison, though it is nearly impossible in such a viciously unrelenting environment. Gangs and corruption are at every corner as Eric attempts to fend for himself, portraying the juxtaposition of his youth with the savage nature of prison life. Jack O'Connell is a true revelation in Starred Up, capturing his role with fervent intensity, ferocity, and ultimately, emotional poignancy. He is captivating every moment he is on screen and has proven he can be one of the greatest stars to have ever graced the silver screen. He's definitely left his Skins days behind. At the end of it all, Starred Up is a brutally intense film and a difficult one to sit through, but its emotional and serious nature make it a rewarding and highly compelling experience.
    DA Z Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2014
    I've been an admirer of Jack O'Connell's since seeing him in Eden Lake and he has matured as an actor in the form of Roth, Oldman and Hardy. A prison drama seems an obvious rites of passage for him and he doesn't disappoint. A gritty, intense drama of the Scum ilk it gives a stark insight into prison life. Expect great things from O'Connell in the future.
    Jon H Super Reviewer

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