Friday, June 28, 2019

Blu-ray debut for MAZE, Stephen Burke's 1980s-set prison drama of the Irish "Troubles"

Garnering good reviews when it opened theatrically here in the USA this past March, the 2017 movie MAZE seems to have impressed most critics because of what is doesn't do -- giving us the usual "prison break," all-action razamatazz -- as much as for what it actually does, which is to offer a mostly quiet, reflective look at how this particular prison break, the largest in Europe since World War II, was planned and then executed.

As written and directed by Stephen Burke (shown at left), Maze (named for the now demolished British prison) is more much interested in the how and why of the break-out than in the actual thing itself, and -- for more demanding adult audiences, at least -- this pays off via depth of character and more believability that is usual in this genre of film

This is not to say that the prison break itself is not exciting. It most definitely is, and it is filled with the kind of you-are-there intensity, documentary-like camera work, and an absolute realism during which it seems like just about anything could happen -- which is pretty much what does, i.e.: the best laid plans, and all that.

Getting to this point is what takes up most of the movie, and while there are scenes of prisoner confrontation, with both the guards and other prisoners, the relationship that develops between one prisoner, who plans the break (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, above), and the guard he deliberately befriends (Barry Ward, below) is what provides the meat of the movie.

These prisoners planning the break, you see, are part of the Irish Republican Army -- the film takes place after the more famous "hunger strikes" that received world-wide attention at the time -- and so are doubly shunned by both the prison staff and by the British prisoners, all of which makes planning and then executing the escape all the more intriguing and difficult.

The movie looks at events that are now decades past with a kind of  "both sides now" approach that sees neither side as out-and-out villains -- even if, we must conclude, these Irishmen had legitimate grievances that were never properly addressed by the British. If only things could have been viewed more evenhandedly back in the day, peace might have come somewhat sooner. But then, legitimate grievances seldom are handled properly by the folk in power, are they?

The supporting cast is as up-to-snuff as the two leads, and technical aspects as fine, as well. The Blu-ray transfer provided by theatrical distributor Lightyear Entertainment is good, and the extras here include a director's commentary and a bonus short film -- titled 81 -- from Stephen Burke.

Distributed here in the USA via MVD Visual/MDV Entertainment Group and running just 93 minutes, Maze hit the street on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week and is now available for purchase and (I hope) rental.

No comments: