See the new great Steve McQueen movie

Hunger, which takes an unflinching look at an IRA hunger strike, is the furthest thing from a date movie. If anything, this brutal, brilliant film — the first by a British director who just happens to share his name with a Hollywood icon — is trying to break your heart.

Most of the action takes place inside Belfast’s Maze prison, where ten Irish Republicans starved themselves to death in 1981 while attempting to get the British government to recognize them as prisoners of war. Be warned: Michael Fassbender’s performance as strike leader Bobby Sands is (literally) transformative but almost impossible to watch. (It makes Christian Bale’s weight loss in The Machinist look like child’s play.) And yet, the film itself is beautiful. Steve McQueen — who is best known as a Turner Prize–winning video artist — captures one remarkable image after another, and one 17-minute shot is a tour de force. (In select theaters, and available via IFC on Demand, on 3/20.)

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