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Maze 2017



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The True Story of the World's Most Astonishing Mass Prison Escape.

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About the Maze 💬

  • Based on real events.

1983. Maze maximum-security prison, Northern Ireland.

Based on the true story of the 1983 mass break-out of 38 IRA prisoners from the HMP Maze high-security prison, MAZE is a prison break film that follows the relationship between two men on opposite sides of the prison bars.

''Republicans leaving the blanket protest are moved to wings with loyalist prisoners. Both groups are enemies, on opposite sides of the Northern Ireland conflict.''

  • The shocking story of the biggest prison break in Europe since WWII.

MAZE charts how inmate Larry Marley, played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, becomes the chief architect of the largest prison escape in Europe since World War II - an escape which he plans but does not go on himself. Up against him is the most state-of-the-art and secure prison in the whole of Europe - a prison within a prison. While scheming his way towards pulling off this feat, Larry comes into close contact with prison warder Gordon Close, played by Barry Ward.

Larry and Gordon's complex journey begins with cautious, chess-like moves. Initially, Gordon holds all the power in their relationship and rejects all of Larry's attempts at establishing a friendship between them. Bit by bit, Larry wears down Gordon’s defenses, maneuvering himself into a position of trust. As each man begins to engage with the other as an equal, the barrier between prisoner and warder has been broken. During all this time, however, Larry has been scheming behind Gordon’s back, gleaning as much information as he can and working with other prisoners in a separate block, trying to engineer their escape. When the escape finally takes place, thirty-eight prisoners reach the main gate and nineteen get away. Gordon is stunned by Larry's betrayal and his own foolishness.

Still, both of them have been irrevocably changed by their interaction. Their relationship represents the beginning of dialogue between the two sides, the first green shoots of the eventual peace process. As both the epicenter of an enduring conflict and the source of its eventual resolution, the story of MAZE is the story of the troubles themselves.


The Northern Ireland Troubles (1969-1998)

The Northern Ireland conflict spanned almost 30 years from 1969 to 1998 and cost over 3,600 lives.

The Troubles refers to a violent thirty-year conflict which began with a civil rights march in Derry on October 5, 1968, and ended with the Good Friday agreement in 1998. At the heart of the conflict lay the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

The goal of the unionist and overwhelmingly Protestant majority in Northern Ireland was to remain part of the United Kingdom. The goal of the nationalist and republican, almost exclusively Catholic, minority was to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

At its heart lay two mutually exclusive visions of national identity and national belonging. The principal difference between 1968 and 1998 is that the opposing factions pursuing these rival futures eventually resolved to do so through democratic and peaceful means, rather than armed conflict. The road from violence to politics was long and cost over 3,600 lives.

As many as 50,000 people were physically maimed or injured, with countless others psychologically damaged by the conflict, a legacy that continues to shape the post-1998 period.

At the height of the conflict, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) - the main republican paramilitary organization in Northern Ireland - was uninterested in any solution short of British withdrawal and Irish unification. However, after almost 3 decades of conflict and stalemate, all sides found their way to the negotiating table where a historic peace agreement was sealed in April 1998.

The 1983 Maze Prison Escape

The Maze prison escape took place in HMP Maze Prison (also known as Long Kesh) on September 25, 1983, just outside Belfast in County Antrim. HMP Maze was a maximum-security prison considered to be one of the most secure prisons in Europe, and it held prisoners convicted of taking part in armed paramilitary campaigns during the Northern Irish conflict.

In what remains the biggest prison escape in UK history, 38 Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) prisoners escaped from H-Block 7 (H7) of the prison. The initial stages of the escape went according to plan. However, as the escape plan fell into disarray due to the timing of a shift change at the prison, a full-scale battle broke out between IRA men and prison officers, all of whom were dressed in prison officer uniforms. At the height of the battle, one prison officer was stabbed and died of a heart attack while twenty others were injured, including two prison officers who were shot with guns that had been smuggled into the prison.

The escape was a propaganda coup for the IRA and gave them a major morale boost after the failure of the hunger strike 18 months earlier, in which ten prisoners had died. The official inquiry into the escape placed most of the blame on prison staff, who in turn blamed the escape on political interference in the running of the prison.

Today, some of the former escapers are involved in politics. One of the 38 has never been seen since.


I began my writing and directing career making award-winning short films about characters caught up in the Northern Ireland conflict (After '68 and '81), and I am excited about returning to this theme from a new perspective twenty years on. The 1983 Maze prison escape is one of the few true stories from that conflict which has the ability to weave its myriad threads together to give us the big picture. Based on real events, MAZE focuses on a particularly unique time in the history of the Northern Irish conflict. After the devastation of the hunger strikes, it was a time of much reflection and change within both the Republican and Loyalist movements. The key relationship at the heart of our film is between Larry Marley, prisoner and escape planner, and Gordon Close, prison warder. Larry was, in real life, one of the main planners of the escape. Gordon is fictional, but much of his story is adapted from real events. Initially, Larry and Gordon are just enemies, born on opposite sides of Northern Ireland's political divide, and they have as little human contact with each other as possible. However, when Larry sees something in Gordon that makes him think he could be useful for his escape plan, a slow seduction begins. The connection between the film's two lead characters is based, from the outset, on cold deception, manipulation and betrayal, making the relationship that eventually forms all the stronger. In my previous work on Northern Ireland, I also used a dual perspective approach in order to delve deeper into the causes of the conflict. When we meet Larry Marley, it is at the very beginning of the Republican movement's journey towards politics. Without being anachronistic, MAZE emphasizes hope for the future through Larry's desire to create a non-violent future for his children. The storyline of Larry persuading his son not to join the IRA is based on fact. Even though prisoner Larry and warder Gordon's relationship is founded on deception, the film shows that they can engage with each other and affect each other, despite being political enemies. This kind of tentative, wary engagement mirrors how all sides eventually engaged with each other in the Good Friday peace talks. Showing how these two enemies can form even a fleeting relationship despite history and their own convictions is, for me, a terrific and unexpected way to explore the human condition. I love that our story operates on many levels simultaneously, gradually and subtly pointing to how the conflict will eventually be resolved in the years ahead, while at the same time, gripping audiences with a tense prison escape plot. At its core, this is a film about hope. Despite the turbulent events which have forced our characters to where they are, the film's central theme is that there is always a way out of the maze of conflict, if you choose to find it. In the case of our central protagonist Larry's journey, even though he succeeds in pulling off the prison escape of a lifetime, he sacrifices his own freedom for the sake of his family by deciding against going on it himself. And through his relationship with Gordon, he comes to realize that his war will soon have to be waged with words rather than guns. In the ten years between the end of our film and the IRA ceasefire of 1994, prisoners and ex-prisoners, including some of those who were involved in the Maze escape, played a vital role in the push for peace. While extremely local, this film has a universal theme - how two opposing tribes must learn to live in a shared, but contested land.

Stephen Burke

Maze Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Stephen Burke

Writing Credits

Stephen Burke


Tom Vaughan-Lawlor

Barry Ward

Martin McCann

Music by

Stephen Rennicks

Cinematography by

David Grennan

Genres: Adventure, Crime, Drama, History, Mystery, Thriller

Countries: Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden

Maze Official Trailer

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