The Maze Runner is an action-packed yet enigmatic exploration of survival and brotherhood that will please fans of James Dashner’s original novel as well as newcomers.
Thomas (Teen Wolf‘s Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in an elevator that opens in the Glade – an oasis at the centre of a colossal maze, peopled by teenage boys like him. Their memories have been wiped, and they have no idea why they’ve been sent there, or by who.
Every 30 days a new boy is sent, and each has a role to play in this miniature society. At night the ‘Runners’ return from mapping the maze before its doors close and the labyrinth changes.
Lurking inside are the Grievers – monstrous biomechanical creatures with stings that can kill and bring back long-forgotten memories. Yet something tells you these kids might not want to remember life outside those imposing walls.
Thomas’s arrival changes everything, and within days a Griever is dead, the boys’ leader Alby (Aml Ameen) has been stung, and the first girl ever arrives with a note that reads: “She’s the last one ever.” Is the maze a prison or a test? And why does the phrase ‘Wicked is good’ haunt both Thomas and Teresa’s (Kaya Scodelario) dreams?
O’Brien is everyman enough to draw you into Thomas’s new world without being indistinct to the point of blandness, and the cast is believable as a close-knit band of survivors. Teresa is a tad underdeveloped, but that’s what sequels are for.
In his directorial debut, Wes Ball shows a lot of promise and visual flair. He presents the Glade as idyllic, so you can understand the boys’ uneasy contentment.
When Thomas finally makes his cathartic dash into the maze, you see more of its industrial underbelly. The maze becomes a more clinical place, and this shift mirrors the Gladers’ changing perception of their surroundings.
The film is peppered with allegories for growing up, but they don’t feel too obviously signposted. The sound design for the ghastly Grievers is creepy, and they’re a credible enough threat for chase scenes to get pulses racing.
The Maze Runner is an enjoyable thriller, and while the story might not get under your skin for very long, neither does it outstay its welcome.
You’ll want to see where these kids go next.