Monday, September 22, 2014

The Maze Runner

Review by James Colt Harrison

20th Century Fox has a run-away winner in the latest adaptation of a  Young Adult book, “The Maze Runner” by author James Dashner. Probably not since the classic book “Lord of The Flies” have so many teen boys been put into jeopardy, but here it is visualized excitingly by cinematographer Enrique Chediak. The film stands solidly on its own and is not, definitely not, a bargain basement clone of either “Flies” or “The Hunger Games” novels.

Clutching the viewer immediately from the first scene until the last, it wins accolades for being the most thrillingly exciting and terrifyingly chilling sci-fi to come out of Hollywood in decades. Not being much of a sci-fi fan myself, nobody was more surprised than this reviewer that the material, the sharply-edited pace, and the likeable kids kept our attention for the full two hours. The mystery, the action, the scary see-but-not-see anything scenes grab you and don’t let go for a minute. Film editor Dan Zimmerman takes us on a ride of thrills and chills as good as Jaws did years ago.

It all begins when handsome teen Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is found rocketing to the top of a rusty elevator shaft and emerging into an unknown territory. He has no memory of how he got there or why. He finds himself in a green, leafy glade populated by a community of teen boys like himself. They are all trapped within a maze and have been trying to find their way out for the past three years.

Threatening their escape from their walled-in society are The Grievers, vicious scorpion-like creatures who seem to be made of metal---and sticky goo. Not nice at all.

The labyrinth which imprisons the boys is ever-changing and constantly baffles them about finding a way out of the maze. Gaffy (Will Poulter) is more or less a leader and he thinks it better to remain where they are or get killed by unknown terrors. Thomas is a forward thinker and believes there may be a way out. Naturally, there is a conflict between the boys who follow Gaffy and those who think Thomas may be right. Young Poulter is a fine villain for being so young, and audiences just may well dislike him or take his side.

Thomas joins fellow “runners” Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Alby (Aml Ameen), and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and some other brave kids to dash through the maze to find an exit before the walls close in on them. The tension is palpable as you find yourself cheering them on as if they are in a race for their lives. Well, they are in a race to stay alive! When solid concrete walls squeeze in on them and giant steel slabs close off every exit, gasping in fright at their plight is a normal, heart-stopping reaction of the audience.

Director Wes Ball has expertly captured the thriller-sci-fi genre and ratcheted it up a couple of notches. The film is sure to capture the hearts of young males who love action, chills, thrills, challenges and the unknown. The Maze Runner offers all those things to movie-goers and therefore is one heck of an entertaining movie. By the way, Patricia Clarkson comes in for one horrifying final scene that may or may not leave you puzzled. Always leave them guessing!

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