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Criterion Collection: Hunger [Blu-ray] [1905] [US Import]

Stuart Graham , Laine Megaw , Steve McQueen    Blu-ray
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Stuart Graham, Laine Megaw, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon, Karen Hassan
  • Directors: Steve McQueen
  • Writers: Steve McQueen, Enda Walsh
  • Producers: Andrew Litvin, Edmund Coulthard, Iain Canning, Jan Younghusband, Laura Hastings-Smith
  • Format: Dolby, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 16 Feb 2010
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002XUL6RG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 130,163 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



It’s a bold film that can seat two people opposite each other for nearly 20 minutes, just having a conversation. Hunger is that movie. What’s particularly impressive is just how enthralling the scene is, and how it makes cinematic gold out of something seemingly so straightforward. Yet straightforward is something that director Steve McQueen’s debut behind the camera absolutely isn’t. Hunger is the story of the IRA hunger strike at the Maze Prison in 1981, and it quickly pulls little punches in getting across the conditions in the prison, and the inmates’ dissatisfaction.

Hunger treads a very careful political line throughout its running time, and what emerges is a surprisingly open drama, powered by an excellent performance from Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands. As Sands embarks on his infamous hunger strike, Fassbender mesmerises in the role, leading up to the aforementioned, gripping, single conversation that’s the highlight of the film. Mark him down as a major talent to watch. Alongside Fassbender, director Steve McQueen does really quite sterling work with Hunger. It can’t have been an easy film to direct by any measure, yet he turns in a harrowing piece of cinema that leaves the judgements to the viewer. It’s challenging film making and--despite a little stumbling as it enters its final act--it’s some piece of cinema too. --Jon Foster

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
On a literal level, Steve McQueen's feature debut, Hunger, delineates the events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands. It is also a meditation on the human body as political weapon, as well as an abstraction on what it means to die for a cause.
In spite of McQueen's celebrated status as a Turner Prize winning artist who has a long experience working in the film medium, the journey to realising his creative vision with Hunger was far from problem-free. At a Q&A session I attended towards the close of 2008, the film's producers, Laura Hastings-Smith and Robin Gutch, described the difficulty they encountered in trying to raise funds for the project. McQueen's perceived "radical" ideas, which included exploring the possibility of making a silent film, made some potential sponsors feel jittery.
The first third of the film is almost devoid of any dialogue at all whilst it works to set the scene. Silence is contrasted against the centrepiece of the film - a twenty-two minute duologue between Bobby Sands and a Catholic priest, in which both men discuss the utility or futility of a hunger strike. This is followed by a monologue by a doctor's detailed description to Sands' parents about the effect of starvation on the human body. The third act observes the six-week disintegration of Sands' body during his hunger strike, which proves to be both engrossing and almost impossible to watch. Hunger, in the end is an indelibly powerful, poetic and provocative work - both emotionally and intellectually.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
By haunted
It is, of course, impossible to make a non political film about the Maze Hunger Strikes of the early 80's. The events came from the political situation in Northern Ireland of the previous 12 (60?) years.

In my opinion McQueen does the right thing by concentrating on a single particular and admittedly very dramatic event of the period. Perhaps someone will one day make a comprehensive epic about the period but maybe it isn't the time yet. The general political details of how the protests arose are given in the film but mostly the camera just shows the events as they arise without comment.

The film has 3 parts. The first shows the self imposed conditions the prisoners lived in during the Blanket and Dirty protests. While I knew this involved them spreading their own excrement on the walls of their cells it is still a bit of a shock to see it re-enacted on screen. There are also long scenes showing the mistreatment by the prison guards. At one point I was thinking that the filmmaker was showing bias by spending so much time on this brutality. There is then a brief scene showing one of the prison officers being shot in the back of the head while visiting his senile mother in a nursing home.
Which actions are more brutal? Are any of them justified? McQueen leaves it up to the viewer to decide.
The middle section is an extended converstion between hunger strike leader Bobby Sands and a priest before the strike begins. They discuss the morality and motivation of the strike. Again McQueen sets out both views and leaves the decisions up to the viewer. I found one suggestion the priest made very interesting ie the Sands desperately wanted to be included in the Pantheon of Irish Republican martyrs such as Tone and Pearse.
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55 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not for the faint of heart 3 Dec 2008
I watched this film last night at the cinema and it justifies the hype that is surrounding it. The director, Steve McQueen, is of course most famous (up till now anyway) as the winner of the Turner Prize in 1999 (when he pipped Tracey Emin to the prize). He has been a film-maker for a long time, (his debut was Bear in 1993 which is a stark, stripped-back look at masculinity), but this is his first feature film. It retains the stripped-back feel, focussing mostly on one location, the Maze Prison, and the brutal horrors that go on therein. It is not for the faint of heart at all. Some parts of it are shocking, and yet Mcqueen has a great talent for stalling at particularly striking images and holding the shot for some time while action continues. I find this really effective, noticing the eery beauty in even the most brutal, unhappy, awful situations. This for me is the opposite of euphemism (an example of which, 'the troubles', used to refer to the war that went on in Ireland, is exposed as the lie it is in this film)... it takes a searing, brave, honest look at things, sees their terrible beauty and holds it so that you revile yourself in even thinking of beauty. These conflicting emotions are also embodied in the central character, Bobby Sands, who led the tragic 1981 hunger strike that resulted in 10 deaths.

Mcqueen's film is remarkably un-cluttered and yet a wealth of different kinds of scene are employed. We have a scene of extended dialogue in which Sands discusses the ethics of hunger striking with a priest. Thatcher's ugly voice is used as a voice-over. There are very violent scenes. A scene where a man is in tears, while extreme violence goes on beside him.

I think this is must-viewing for anyone interested in film, interested in recent history, interested in the way history is formed. It is not a simplistically judgemental film. The performances, particularly Michael Fassbender, are similarly uncompromising, brave and dedicated.
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