15th Jan2018

‘Maze’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Barry Ward, Martin McCann, Eileen Walsh, Aaron Monaghan, Niamh McGrady, Ross McKinney, Elva Trill, Tim Creed, Cillian O’Sullivan, Patrick Buchanan, Andy Kellegher | Written and Directed by Stephen Burke


Prison break movies are always interesting things. Sometimes you get the high-octane thrillers where action is the main focus, but other times you get the more cerebral, that focuses on the plans to escape, and what it took to pull off an almost impossible feat. Maze is one of the more thoughtful prison break movies, made all the more interesting because of the fact it was based around the Irish troubles.

In 1983, thirty-eight IRA prisoners managed to pull off a mass breakout from HMP Maze, the infamous high-security prison in Northern Ireland. To do this though first one of the prisoners Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) had to gain the trust of prison warden Gordon Close (Barry Ward), a man on the opposite side of the political divide.

Maze is a movie that had a tough subject to convey onto the big screen. The prisoners who try to pull of the escape (which is based on a true story) were IRA terrorists. It does raise questions as to whether we should be hoping for them to successfully escape? What Maze works on though is the fact that the Irish problem was a complex one. One way to highlight the nature of the problems in Ireland is the fact that it is not only Irish terrorists in Maze prison, but also Northern Irish ones too. The film starts by showing this tension in the jail, and gives the reason why the prisoners wanted to escape in the first place. It doesn’t highlight what they were in there for, it focuses on the escape plot itself.

To create Larry Marley as a somewhat sympathetic character we also see that he wants to escape to try to push his son away from joining in the “family trade” as it is called. This gives him a reason to escape, and an understandable one. Again, Maze doesn’t push us to think that Larry is a nice man, he is just the mastermind behind the plot who needs to get out of prison to save his son from making a mistake.

A character we do sympathise with though is Gordon Close. A prison warden we see where his hatred lies when there is an attempt on his family’s life. The job as the warden costs him a lot, and it is understandable why he is harsh on the prisoners, especially with what it has cost him. Still, he does become friends (of a sort) with Marley, which of course leads to his downfall.

The actual seduction of the warden and the plan to escape is a slow process, but it is interesting because it is all about building up information. There are no big action sequences where a character has to sneak into forbidden areas in a make or break move to gain information. This is about subterfuge and manipulation of trust.

When the prison break finally happens, you do pity Marley for the choice he takes to aid his friends. The most sympathy has to be felt though for Close, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he had been manipulated into making mistakes.

What Maze does is to show a story that doesn’t really make anybody a hero, just provides an entertaining movie that may actually make you read up on the real history to see what impact the escape had. Seen as one of the biggest prison breaks in Europe since World War 2 it may not be as jingoistic as a movie like the Great Escape, but it still has a place in history that is a story worth telling.

****½  4.5/5

Maze is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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