The Maze Runner
Director: Wed Ball
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter
113 mins; Class 15;
KRS Releasing Ltd

A teenage boy groggily comes to in a metal lift that is travelling upwards at speed. When it reaches its destination, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), for that is his name, finds himself in an expanse of lush greenery known as the Glade, inhabited by a group of young boys.

The Glade is surrounded by gargantuan grey concrete walls, within which, Thomas learns, lies a labyrinthine maze. The doors to the maze open and close once a day and, every day, a couple of the boys, known as ‘runners’, squeeze through in an futile attempt to find a way out, before making their way back to the safety of the Glade.

And so they are still there, and no one knows how they got there or why. Although they seemed to have settled into community living, Thomas questions everything. His presence forces the other ‘gladers’ into rethinking their predicament, despite the protestations of Gally (Will Poulter), a boy wary of rocking the boat.

Yes, The Maze Runner is another young adult, futuristic and dystopian story based on yet another successful novel – the first in a bestselling series by James Dashner.

Its influences are clearly a mix of The Lord of the Flies (bunch of boys trapped in a remote location, the TV series Lost (idyllic site with danger and mystery in the air) and The Hunger Games (physical and emotional challenges aplenty).

However, despite its familiar tropes, the film boasts a strong cast, numerous heart-in-mouth action moments, and a truly terrifying monster in the giant metallic spiderlike creatures that lurk within the maze, making it a solid and thoroughly enjoyable little adventure story.

The young cast is uniformly good, their characters quickly established and placed within the hierarchy of the island.

O’Brien effectively channels Thomas’s initial fear and eventual transformation to de facto leader of the group. Poulter strikes a presence as Thomas’s intelligent and charismatic adversary.

The latter is never the bad guy; he is just a young boy wary of any changes because of the danger this may bring and it’s easy to empathise with him.

A sense of mystery throughout

Thomas Brodie-Sangster is Newt, always in search of a compromise. Kaya Scodelario as the feisty Teresa makes the most of being the token female in the group.

First-time director Wes Ball maintains a sense of mystery and foreboding throughout, with the audience kept in the dark as to how the boys got there, and who or what is behind their confinement in the Glade and he effectively worked his way to the denouement.

When this arrives, however, it proves to be a bit of a disappointment, as we are treated to a wordy exposition by a previously unseen character who explains at length what has gone before. Considering the breathtaking action from before, this is a little pat and, although this conclusion sets up the premise for a sequel, I would have preferred to have more answers.

That could well be my impatient nature, yet I hope the answers to the many unresolved issues will arrive with the sequel, already in production and set for release in September next year.

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