The Maze Runner
Dir: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Ami Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, and Kaya Scodelario
By Monte Yazzie of The Coda Films
“Never go beyond the walls”. A rule inherently made to be broken by the young men confined behind massive, mechanical walls in director Wes Ball’s adaptation of James Dashner’s young adult novel “The Maze Runner”. A plethora of films featuring youth in peril in a dystopian future, most based off beloved novels, have saturated the cinema recently. Most of these films are featuring the usual derivative storytelling accompanied by decent enough acting, unfortunately because these kinds of stories are becoming so common nothing feels surprising. “The Maze Runner” falls into some of these pitfalls, however with great performances from supporting roles and a plot that unabashedly keeps the viewer in the dark until the end; the film sustains a sensation of intrigue amidst the confusion.
Waking up in an elevator with a group of young men standing intimidatingly over top of him, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is imprisoned in a constructed maze. Inside the maze is a community of young men primitively surviving, each of them arriving in the same mysterious way as Thomas. They have organized their own society with rules and responsibilities that each person abides to, and everyday a specific group of members known as “runners” navigate the maze in hopes of finding a way out. Though every night the maze closes and monstrous animals called Grievers arrive to ward off exploration. Thomas’ impulsive actions throws discourse into the population, but the sudden arrival of a young woman who recognizes Thomas changes everything.
Imbued with tones similar to “The Lord of the Flies”, the narrative provides some interesting surface level examinations on brotherhood, maturity, and group mentality influenced by fear and survival. While this in-depth character and narrative development doesn’t continue long enough to get into the more thought-provoking material involving the motivations of these young men, it does offer an attention grabbing introduction. Unfortunately the suspense of the claustrophobic atmosphere is lost once the film transitions into the rolling mystery, which regrettably goes nowhere and instead fills the plot with more damaging questions than satisfying answers. For those that have read the book, the film may have a slightly different appeal, but for those coming in cold, the film feels like a prolonged sequel setup.
Still, the performances from the cast are quite good. In the lead Dylan O’Brien is effective though somewhat overshadowed by the supporting cast. Two in particular offer great contrasts for the group. Ami Ameen plays community leader Alby with concern and control, the figure of positive leadership for the young men. While Will Poulter playing villain hides the inner fear he is feeling with an outward menace that lashes out whenever he gets scared. This comes to characterize his ambitions as his fear gains full control of his emotions. Unfortunately some improbable motivations from the characters and strained dialog moments interrupt the performances, allowing the flaws within the narrative to show through.
Amidst good performances and some skilled techniques that attempt to add depth to the narrative and build tension within certain scenes, “The Maze Runner” eventually leaves the audience in a place of confusion where only a sequel could remedy the messy plot and satisfy the many pending questions being asked in the end.
3.00 out of 5.00