********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Wes Ball
Actors: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Movies bring a lot of stuff in the lives of the audience, at least for those two hours in the cinema hall; they give you reasons to be happy or sad, they make you feel romantic, they offer you the spirit of adventure. With The Maze Runner, it is the youthful energy and drive which is on ample display that permeates the audience too. Much of the cast of the film are in their early 20s, with the introduction of any “senior” actor occurring only in the final stages of the film. While such “young adult” genre movies are finding more space in Hollywood, The Maze Runner is a bit different than the recent popular ones likes Divergent and The Hunger Games, as it focuses relatively lesser on the character arcs though instead offers a gripping edge-of-the-seat sci-fi tale. For someone looking to be more deeply connected with the movie, The Maze Runner would come across as a dish without the right amount of “salt to taste”. For the rest, it couldn’t get any better!
The Maze Runner is based on the 2009 novel of the same name written by James Dashner. The movie begins with a young lad (Dylan O’Brien) waking up in a rusty elevator. The elevator opens up in a grassy clearing which is called the Glade where he meets other young boys like him. The lad remembers nothing of his past, though he is told that his name is all he will recollect soon; that is how it has been for the others. The Glade is surrounded by high walls on all sides, though there is an opening on one side which shuts on sundown. The lad is warned not to leave the Glade, but to stick together, for that is how the others have survived. But this one is curious, he does not wish to live in this manner for long. Will his curiosity win him his freedom or bring doom on the Glade? There is only one way to find out.
The Maze Runner definitely has an intriguing plot, and while it may seem a bit far-fetched at times, one shouldn’t forget that this is science-fiction after all. The movie relies on the complexity of the plot, the little knowledge about the surroundings which is shared by the movie’s characters and the audience alike, and the peel-by-peel unraveling of the situation in an exhilarating fashion. Director Wes Ball brings a serious touch to the whole movie, with limited humour and more of thrill. He builds little in terms of characters, so you may relate less with the protagonist here as someone might have done with Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games, but makes up for it by keeping a high tempo for the entire course of the film which gives it an edge-of-the-seat thriller feel. There are moments where you will feel your muscles tighten, your heat beat pace up, and your popcorn forgotten; if a movie can do that, it gets extra points in my book. The music score by John Paesano (whom I knew little about before this movie) plays a huge part in building these moments, giving them the necessary dark and serious edge, and raising the suspense behind each shot.
The movie has a youthful buzz about it, as if it has a life of its own which is bustling in its adolescence. That energy comes from its young cast who do a wonderful job to add to the intensity of the plot. Dylan O’Brien (of Teen Wolf fame) is the one leading the charge, portraying the right mix of confusion, curiosity and leadership that his role demands. Here is one actor who has the right ingredients to become a breakthrough star soon in Hollywood! A lot of the other young actors leave their mark in the movie too, each one not without a solid body of work already for themselves. So we have Aml Ameen as the leader Alby, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the cool headed Newt, Ki Hong Lee as the “runner” Minho, Blake Cooper as the lively Chuck, Will Poulter as the skeptical Gally and Kaya Scodelario as the only female character Teresa. In a movie which does not focus much on building characters, the fact that these actors do make an impression is a testament to their talent, and I expect a few of them to go on to bigger things in Hollywood.
The Maze Runner has its flaws, but they are for those who wish to dig them out. For the others, the flaws would be well buried by the excitement and thrill that each shot of the film offers. Director Wes Ball knows from the beginning what he wants to deliver, and does not waiver from that idea in any shot of the film. This movie is of course based on a novel series which spans across three books, so a sequel of the movie could be in the works, though its box-office performance would have a bearing on that decision too. I, for one, am looking forward to the continuation of the story for the series indeed has a lot of promise!