‘Maze’ Available to Stream on Netflix

Based on the true story of the 1983 mass break-out of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland.  As Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), the chief architect of the escape, schemes his way towards pulling off this feat, he comes into contact with prison warder, Gordon Close (Barry Ward).

Initially Larry and Gordon are confirmed enemies, born on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide, but when Larry realises that Gordon may be unwittingly useful for his escape plan, a slow seduction begins. Larry intends to use and manipulate Gordon in order to get closer to his goal but what follows is a tense, and intriguing drama in which an unlikely relationship is forged between two enemies that will have far reaching consequences for both of them.

Maze is directed by Stephen Burke and stars Tom Vaughan–Lawlor, Barry Ward and Martin McCann.

 

“What Maze does impressively is blend historical context with genre filmmaking, managing to feel both important and exciting.”

  • Read Stephen Porzio’s review

 

Actor Barry Ward, ‘Maze’

 

Stephen Burke, Writer/Director of ‘Maze’

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Actor Barry Ward, ‘Maze’

Maze is based on the true story of the 1983 mass breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland.  As Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), the chief architect of the escape, schemes his way towards pulling off this feat, he comes into contact with prison warder, Gordon Close (Barry Ward). Initially Larry and Gordon are confirmed enemies, born on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide, but when Larry realises that Gordon may be unwittingly useful for his escape plan, a slow seduction begins. Larry intends to use and manipulate Gordon in order to get closer to his goal but what follows is a tense, and intriguing drama in which an unlikely relationship is forged between two enemies that will have far reaching consequences for both of them.

Gemma Creagh caught up with Barry Ward ahead of the film’s release on DVD.

 

How did you get involved with Maze.

I had worked with Jane Doolan, the producer and we made an Italian film together [L’accabadora (2015)] in Cagliari, Sardinia in Italian. It was around that time she said her husband Stephen Burke had a script and that there would be something in it for me. At that stage, I think they had me in mind for one of the inmates. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor was already attached. As time went by, availability issues and production issues rose and then, while talking to Stephen and Jane, they said that they wanted me to play Gordon, the warden, in the film opposite Tom, who plays a Republican prisoner. It’s a really brilliant part and I was thrilled to do it – plus Jane and Stephen being friends made it all the more sweeter.

 

Gordon is a real meaty character with maybe some views the people don’t agree with. But you really empathize with the pressure he’s under. It’s very easy to vilify a prison guard but you brought so much to the role to create a three-dimensional character. How did you approach him as a character.  

I think that on the page it was really obvious immediately that the warden was a really a terrific part – really meaty as you say. And the fact that traditionally prison-breakout movies involve the escapee as the hero and the warden as a one-dimensional baddy whereas this film put a twist on that made it really interesting. It’s really appealing for anybody reading it and particularly the role of Gordon. So in the approach most of it was on the page and it was hard to go wrong. My own research on it was about the context of the time – the North in the ’70s and early ’80s. I was reading a lot of books on that time, which was really at the height of it all. It made for really grim but terrific reading. The wardens had a bad reputation – and probably well founded. They were legitimate targets and they were being murdered during that period. It was a highly dangerous job and required great courage to see it through and to do it. I was thinking of Gordon as quite simply as a jobsworth… but he really took pride in what he was doing and deemed it a very important job. It was something of a vocation or a mission that he got up and out everyday. And he wasn’t going to cow down to anyone in the face of threats. He believed what he was doing was right – and that he was on the right side of the war.

Whatever side the character is on, whatever the politics, they are coming from a similar mindset, I think. I read a lot about not only the historical context of the time but also the professional context of being a prison warden. They wasn’t that much to go on but there were more studies more recently – particularly in the States – on the effects of that profession on the mental well-being of wardens. It makes for harsh reading. It’s an extremely challenging job and leads to all sorts of social and personal problems. I had all that in mind… but as an actor approaching your character you have to trust that the research you’ve done is there and will be present during a scene but you kind of have to park it at the door and just concentrate on the scene in hand, what the character’s individual objectives are and what obstacles they are faced with. Both Tom and my characters were so well drawn that it was kind of easy – and a joy – to play. Plus me and Tom get on brilliantly and were bouncing ideas of each other. So when action is shouted you draw on all the work you’ve done and hopefully get the scene.

 

Produced by Jane Doolan and Brendan J Byrne, Maze is released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK on the 15th January (EST) and 22nd January (DVD), and was financed by The Irish Film Board, RTE, BAI, Film Vast, Windmill Lane, Cork regional funding and Irish tax incentives for the film industry.

 

 

Stephen Burke, Writer/Director of ‘Maze’

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Stephen Burke, Writer/Director of ‘Maze’

 

Gemma Creagh talks to writer/director Stephen Burke about Maze, which tells the true story of the infamous 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP, which was to become the biggest prison escape in Europe since World War II.

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Irish Film Review: Maze

 

Actor Barry Ward, ‘Maze’

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Irish Film Review: Maze

DIR/WRI: Stephen Burke  PRO: Brendan J. Byrne, Jane Doolan, Simon Perry • DOP: David Grennan • ED: John O’Connor  DES: Owen Power  CAST: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Barry Ward, Martin McCann

 

In terms of films centred around The Troubles – with 90s Jim Sheridan movies, ’71 and Hunger being the best and The Devil’s Own starring Brad Pitt perhaps the worst – Stephen Burke’s prison drama Maze is closer to the top end, on par with something like Fifty Dead Men Walking. Set in 1983, it stars Tom Vaughan Lawlor (Love/Hate’s Nidge doing an impressive Northern Irish accent) as the real-life Larry Marley, an IRA prisoner who took part in the famous hunger strike that led to the deaths of ten men including Bobby Sands (see Hunger). Following the failure of this protest, Marley is placed into the newly built Maze prison – the most seemingly secure jail in Europe at the time. The republican devises a plan to break out. However, in order to do so, he must convince his IRA superior and fellow inmate Oscar (Martin McCann – ‘71, The Survivalist) that his plan is fool-proof, survive trapped with various jailed loyalists and win the trust of world-weary prison guard Gordon Close (Barry Ward – The Fall, Jimmy’s Hall).

What Maze does impressively is blend historical context with genre filmmaking, managing to feel both important and exciting. In the same way as ’71 could be interpreted equally as a story about a Brit soldier trapped behind enemy lines and a Warriors-like tale of survival in a city where everyone wants to kill you, Maze is, at its heart, a prison movie. It hits all the beats of the sub-genre that people enjoy – the subtle scoping out of the prison perimeter, the exposing of the one weakness that can allow escape, the various precise steps necessary to facilitate a break-out.

It blends the fundamentals of the prison sub-genre with true-life stories of people affected by The Troubles. For instance, instead of the sadistic prison warden typically seen in movies all the way from Jules Dassin’s Brute Force to Shawshank Redemption, the Gordon Close character in Maze comes to symbolise that both Loyalists and Republicans were victims of The Northern Irish conflict. Both Larry and Gordon are prisoners. The two are trapped, Larry by literal prison bars and Gordon from the bars on the security system he has to install in his house following an attempted hit on his family. Both spend their days in jail and have moments where they wonder what the point of all the violence is. Larry worries if his friends’ deaths in the hunger strike were for nothing and Gordon ponders if his dedication to the Crown is worth sacrificing his family (who’ve left him after he refused to quit following the assassination attempt).

Another nice blend of the historical and the pulpy is the tentative relationship that develops between Larry and Gordon. The latter is the true flaw that the IRA member needs to exploit to escape. Larry identifies in Gordon the sadness that will cause him to let his guard down and capitalises on it, enduring hostility from the warden until he eventually warms to him. Yet, despite their relationship essentially being a ruse, there are moments where they do share a real bond such as when the two discuss their wives (Larry’s played briefly but memorably by Catastrophe’s Eileen Walsh).

The build up to the eventual escape attempt is tense. The grim, brown colour pallette functions as both an evocation of Belfast at the time and a verisimilitude booster. The editing by Handsome Devil’s John O’Connor is tight. Yet, what keeps the movie from true greatness is some two-dimensional characters (the Loyalist prisoners are dispatched from the narrative too easily for me). The prison scenes seem a little tame particularly when comparing them to Hunger which took place almost at the same time.  Plus, although Maze doesn’t take sides (adopting an appropriate war is hell attitude to The Troubles), it doesn’t communicate to the viewer anything anybody slightly versed in the conflict wouldn’t already know. Still, for fans of prison dramas or well-acted historical thrillers, Burke’s film is a very solid entry in both camps.

 

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

92 minutes
Maze is released 22nd September 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cast to Attend ‘Maze’ Screening at Galway Film Fleadh

 

Tickets have already sold out for the Irish premiere of Stephen Burke’s hotly-anticipated Irish thriller Maze at the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh. The screening on Saturday 15th July will have director Stephen Burke and cast Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Barry Ward, Martin McCann, Aaron Monaghan and Niamh McGrady all in attendance.

 

“I am delighted to be premiering Maze at the Galway Film Fleadh, and to show the film to an Irish audience for the first time,” said director Stephen Burke. “The festival has become such an important part of Ireland’s film culture, and it’s wonderful that so many of our great cast and crew will be present.”

 

Based on the true story of the 1983 mass breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland.  As Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), the chief architect of the escape, schemes his way towards pulling off this feat, he comes into contact with prison warder, Gordon Close (Barry Ward). Initially Larry and Gordon are confirmed enemies, born on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide, but when Larry realises that Gordon may be unwittingly useful for his escape plan, a slow seduction begins. Larry intends to use and manipulate Gordon in order to get closer to his goal but what follows is a tense, and intriguing drama in which an unlikely relationship is forged between two enemies that will have far reaching consequences for both of them.

 

Maze will be released by Lionsgate UK, and was financed by The Irish Film Board, RTE, BAI, Film Vast, Windmill Lane, Cork regional funding and Irish tax incentives for the film industry.

 

Maze will be in Irish cinemas 22nd September, Cert 15A

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2017

 

http://filmireland.net/2017/06/05/irish-films-in-cinema-2017/

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