Magazine article Screen International

'MAZE': Galway Review

Magazine article Screen International

'MAZE': Galway Review

Article excerpt

The largest prison escape in the UK is detailed in Stephen Burke’s period drama starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Barry Ward

Dir/scr. Stephen Burke. Ireland. 2017. 93 mins

Two men circle each other around the bars of the maximum security Maze prison in Northern Ireland in 1983. The canny republican Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) is behind them, while warder Gordon Close (Barry Ward) has the keys - for now. Stephen Burke’s low-key, well-acted thriller is scrupulously even-handed while making the stakes clear as a weakened IRA seeks the publicity coup of the UK’s largest ever mass escape.

Time is a healer, and this film educates as well as entertains

Enough years have passed since the ‘dirty protest’ and Maze prison hunger strikes of 1981 to make the Long Kesh escape a sufficient prospect for cinema entertainment that two separate films have been developed about it. One, a Jim Sheridan project announced prior to Cannes, may have fallen away but MAZE, Burke’s gritty drama, premiered at Galway’s Film Fleadh, and, repped by Visit Films, will now look to a potential future festival career. It’s set for release in Ireland through Lionsgate this September, where it will prompt debate and play best. Vaughan-Lawlor’s (Love/Hate) rumoured casting in the next Avengers film may help promote interest.

Certainly, nothing to date has sought to make entertainment of such a tinderbox subject (Steve McQueen’s Hunger was a serious-minded film, and last year’s Bobby Sands: 66 Days documentary added historical context and the benefit of hindsight). More Cell 211 than Goodbye Bafana, MAZE is a publicly-funded project - by Republic of Ireland agencies - which arrives nearly 20 years after the Good Friday agreement brought peace to the North. …

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