An Irish Triple Bill

A selection of recent efforts from the Emerald Isle connected together by that most Irish of things: prison.

Maze (Stephen Burke, 2017) is an account of the infamous IRA breakout from the Maze prison in 1983, an event which lives long in the minds of Northern Irish people who marveled at The Great Auld Escape (the biggest prison break since WWII, no less) taking place just up the road from them. Sadly, the film doesn't quite manage to deliver on this promise, falling short of the wire as either a dramatic piece or as an exciting prison drama. Despite a reliably strong turn from Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (with spot-on accent) as the mastermind behind the plan, it is a fairly pedestrian journey through the usual tropes of the prison break film, with only a superficial attempt to explain much about the political landscape and wider context of the times. That said, the grim Maze prison is recreated well and Norn Iron viewers will no doubt find themselves reminiscing fondly about the Bad Old Days.

The Cured (David Freyne, 2018) presents an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse set-up. Here, the action takes place in Ireland after a viral outbreak, which turned people into slavering zombie-like fiends, has been largely contained. The 'Cured' of the title are those plague victims who have been successfully treated and are now released from quarantine, ready for rehabilitation back into society. However, they retain the memories of the horrific acts they carried out whilst infected, making it very difficult for the likes of Senan (Sam Keeley) to return to any sort of normality when he reunites with his sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page), whose husband died during the outbreak. A quietly affecting drama ensues as Senan and fellow cured acquaintances struggle to integrate back into a society which is not entirely welcoming of them. Although Freyne claims his inspiration came from the boom-and-bust of the Celtic Tiger, it is hard for any Irish person to view this without thinking of the prisoners released as part of the Good Friday agreement, and the various reactions to this across Irish society. As such, it isn't really to be viewed as a horror film - it certainly isn't that scary and heads off in slightly unsatisfactory directions toward the end. But it is interesting viewing to see the socio-political overtones falling, falling softly upon all the living and the walking dead.

Michael Inside (Frank Berry, 2018) is set in Dublin, where young teenager Michael (Dafhyd Flynn) ends up sentenced to 3 months in prison for a minor drugs-related offence. A grimly affecting drama ensues, which shows how easy it is to end up on a slippery slope to crime when a combination of circumstances, systemic failures and bad choices conspire against you. It's an impressive effort from Berry, who researched the film with former inmates of the reform system in Dublin, lending it an authenticity which recalls the work of Ken Loach in its depiction of the socially excluded and the struggles they face. Add in excellent performances (from Flynn and Lalor Roddy as Michael's kindly granda), a melancholy score and brooding camerawork, and you have a very worthwhile prison drama indeed. 

And as luck would have it, these are all available to view on Netflix. So lock yourself up and get watching.

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