| July 15, 2014

A mystery links two women living centuries apart.  Alice (Vanessa Kirby) is a modern woman who unearths a ring with a labyrinth symbol.  800 years earlier, Alais (Jessica Brown-Findlay; Downton Abbey) is given a mysterious book with clues and references to a labyrinth and the fabled Holy Grail.  Without knowing it, the two women’s destinies are intertwined as they work to solve the mystery of the labyrinth.

There are a lot of interesting ideas at work here.  The mythology of the grail and the obligatory greed and death that surrounds it is all really interesting.  Also, the parallels between the two storylines are executed well without being overly obvious.  The cast is very strong too.  I’ve recently gotten into Downton Abbey and Jessica Brown-Findlay’s character there is very similar to her character in this.  I don’t know what I’d do if I saw her in something set in modern times.  She has an old-fashioned presence that fits in these bygone settings  It was nice to see Sebastian Stan (Captain America) show up in something else.  I don’t feel like he’s really being utilized, but we’ll see where his career goes from here.  Speaking of under-utilized, John Hurt (Doctor Who) doesn’t have nearly enough screen time.

The major downfall of Labyrinth is that it is way too long.  I’m not sure why this needed to be made into a 3 hour mini-series, but the story could have easily been told in half that time.  Instead we’re stuck with large gaps of filler that feel unnecessary more often than not.  It makes the 3 hours feel tedious and boring, and weakens the elements of the film that I actually enjoyed.

The series is beautifully shot, as we move between past and present.  The combination of a period drama and a modern thriller works really well, and the balance between the two stories is perfect.  We don’t spend too long in one time period with brief jumps to the other.  Often, this structure can create a longing to stick to one primary plot line.  Labyrinth’s balance and the time it takes to develop characters means there isn’t a primary time line.  Thus, the story feels carefully crafted.  It’s just unfortunate that the series is so drawn out.  It feels like this is the wrong format for this story.  It either needed to be a shorter, tighter film, or a longer, more developed season of television.  And John Hurt needed to be more integral.

Special features include a behind the scenes featurette.  Available now on DVD from Lionsgate.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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