Post Academy Awards, my new tradition is to watch each of the best picture nominated films. Among the eight top movies this year, I have only previously seen The Grand Budapest Hotel. It is a delightful, quirky, visually appealing movie. I watched this fun film last year for the first time, and watched it again yesterday. My review that I did last year for the movie is here.
Tonight, I viewed The Maze Runner and decided to post about it, before beginning the series of Oscar contenders. This sci-fi adventure film stars Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee and Kaya Scodelario. It was directed by Wes Ball and is based on the book by the same name, written by James Dashner. The PG-13 rating is for intense action and the movie has a run time of 1 hour and 53 minutes.
Thomas (O’Brien) regains consciousness as he is rising in an elevator, with no memory of who he is or where he has come from. He emerges into a space called The Glade, surrounded by a circle of young men. They too arrived in this place in the same way, without memory. The only knowledge they regain are their names. Thomas runs, in a panic, until he realizes there is no where to go. Spinning in a circle, he sees a very tall wall enclosing The Glade.
The leader of the community, Alby (Ameen) shows Thomas around and explains that this is now home. They survive by working together, each boy assigned a role in the community. The elevator brings fresh supplies and a new boy each month. They have learned to thrive by creating and living by rules. Two runners emerge through an opening in the wall, just as the doors begin to close. Alby explains that they are maze runners whose purpose is to explore the surrounding maze by day, seeking a way out. They must return to The Glade by nightfall, or they will die in the maze, hunted down by mechanical scorpion-like creatures known as Grievers. The runners have been exploring the maze for years, and have not found a way out, partly due to the fact that the maze reconfigures each night.
Thomas is a Greenie (newcomer), but he is curious, questioning, unwilling to accept that life must now be so constrained. He meets second in command, Newt (Brodie-Sangster), and the rule enforcer, Gally (Poulter). Gally and Thomas clash immediately, for it seems that everything is changing since Thomas’ arrival. A runner is attacked during the day. Alby is stung also, and rescued by Thomas, who breaks a rule and goes into the maze after him. A girl shows up by way of the elevator and she seems to know Thomas. Teresa (Scodelario) brings an antidote to the Griever sting and Alby survives, with some memory returning. He remembers Thomas. But before much info can be shared, it is discovered that the door to the maze did not close when darkness fell, as it should have. Grievers burst into The Glade, dragging boys away. It seems to be a punishment for Thomas’ transgressions.
Gally wants to banish Thomas, however the lead runner, Minho (Lee), had taken Thomas with him into the maze and they discovered a door that opened with a mechanical key that was recovered from a dead Griever. Knowing they must leave The Glade, before twilight brings the Grievers back, Thomas and a band of Gladers, including the girl Teresa, head into the maze, against the wishes of Gally, who has become the new leader. The band is determined to find the door and a way out, or die trying.
Wow. This was a good movie, intense, powerful, edgy, gritty. There was keen suspense as I tried to figure out what was going on, one step ahead of the unfolding of the story. I literally found myself leaning in toward the TV screen, in fascination, and away from it, alternatively, during intense sequences.
I experienced this movie, viscerally, like a punch in the gut. The high enclosure, the rules, the fear. I’ve lived in a box like that, afraid to break the rules, thinking that abiding by the rules ensured security, swapping safety for freedom. That was the most intense part of the movie for me…I recognized the feeling of being trapped. Gally, the bully-like enforcer of the rules, personifies fear. He chooses life in a box, and perceived safety, over taking the risk of going beyond what he knows, even if it means freedom. Change was seen as a threat, rather than a pathway to a bigger life.
This was a well done film, albeit one without a conclusion. The ending raised more questions than it answered, setting the stage for the next movie in the trilogy. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials releases in theaters later this year. I’m looking forward to it, so much so that I’ll be seeing the next installment at the theater!