Based on a true story, Maze
Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), initially part of the hunger strike of 1983, becomes the mastermind behind the prison breakout. To accomplish this he must recruit and convince fellow IRA inmates, to fend off the Loyalists, and to befriend the warden Gordon (Barry Ward). As Maze unfolds it becomes clear that this film will convey more than a recreation of that breakout.
Marley’s motivation to plan the breakout is simple – pride. Marley feels betrayed by the failed hunger strikes and wants to display his loyalty to the cause by breaking out the IRA prisoners. As Marley begins putting the piece together fellow IRA prisoners challenge his authority. Don’t be expecting a Scum-style alpha-male prison-brawl with Marley taking out prisoners one-by-one with two billiard-balls in a dirty sock. The violence here is downplayed.
As Marley begins to win over Gordon’s trust, the two share commonalities, and a strange, macabre respect begins to surface. Now, don’t think these two become best buddies, theres is a far more nuanced relationship. Gordon fully understands the violence that the IRA can inflict and their guerilla tactics make them dangerous, even when their members are locked-up behind walls. This friendship slowly builds, and the film conveys this in such a manner. It’s a slow-burner that rewards patient viewers.
While this psychologically, character-driven storytelling is an interesting approach, it does feel inward focused. Marley’s escape plan can be difficult to grasp. The plan is told all through the dialogue, with little-to-no visual cues. When an action occurs on-screen the viewer is given very little to work on, thus the tension dissipates.
The final act, the climax that this escape prison thriller has been building towards, is very lacklustre. Putting aside the aforementioned narrative issues, what becomes in the final act apparent are the budget constraints. It’s visually uninteresting, the character arcs aren’t fully realised, and it’s disappointing after a lengthy prison break heist all told through backroom exchanges.