Friday, 19 September 2014

STAYING ALIVE: The Maze Runner spins an intriguing against-the-odds saga

THE SEEKERS: The search for a way home keeps their eyes wide open.

Who am I? Where am I? How did I get here? A bout of memory loss is the least of Thomas' troubles when he wakes up in a cage and finds as sea of strange faces sneering down at him. The bunch is made up of other young men his age, and as he soon learns they all came to this strange dystopian place the same way he did. With no means of escaping, they're formed a village, bonding together against the elements, cultivating their own food, and keeping a close watch on a mysterious, gigantic maze that looms large amidst their fields and within which only the most courageous of the lot (called "the runners") venture to investigate in the hopes of discovering a pathway back to their old lives and loved ones.   

 Thomas (played with angsty conviction by Dylan O'Brien), meanwhile, has a series of mental flashbacks in which he dreams about a nefarious organization code-named WCKD and an icy white-clad woman (the ever-alluring Patricia Clarkson) giving the orders. I won't spoil the surprise but what these dreams mean could hold the key to the young men's liberation from their prison. 

One of the things that has made watching The Hunger Games movies such a thrilling exercise is the depiction of a believable alternate realm where survival at whatever cost is the name of the game. You get much of the same in this film, The Maze Runner, a fast-paced, suspense-filled and hair-raising action-adventure saga spiked with a dollop of sci-fi intrigue. 

But where The Hunger Games presents a well-wrought, multi-layered story from acclaimed source material, The Maze Runner (an adaptation of James Dashner's bestselling novel) fumbles in finding its footing in its attempt to hook viewers. But even so, I defy anyone to watch all of The Maze Runner's one hour and fifty-five minutes and not leave the cinema with even the slightest sense of anticipation for what's in store for Thomas and his band of brothers. As the movie's ending suggests, at least one sequel is on the way. 

Eventful to the last, The Maze Runner is a claustrophobic, sometimes harrowing, frequently intense depiction of resilience and rising against unimaginable odds. Tyrone's Verdict: B

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