This title suggests a simple premise: there’s a maze, and a boy has to run through it. Easy right? The film that emerges however is anything but; intricate, heart-stopping, edge-of-the-seat action which just keeps you guessing from the beginning seconds down to the end minutes.
The basic story is thus: a group of boys have been sent one at a time to a field surrounded by a complex, ever-changing maze. They affectionately refer to the field as ‘The Glade’ and this is where they have built their own civilisation and community, with tools sent up with each newcomer. Their task is presumably to beat the maze (made more difficult by the creatures known only as ‘Grievers’ which are fearsome not only through their presence but also in their absences) although no instructions had been given by the mysterious organisation running this supposed test. This has lead to many of the boys becoming comfortable with their new existence, content to live with whatever the organization gives them. However, with the appearance of the first ever girl in The Glade, things take a dramatic turn which threatens this existence.
One of the great features of the film is that – unless you’ve read the book by James Dashner – there is no way of knowing what’s coming next and, just as one question is answered, another immediately takes it’s place, perpetually giving the audience hope then taking it away. This makes the characters more relatable (they don’t understand their world either), engendering audience investment in their survival even though some only have a short screen-time and, occasionally, appear less than sympathetic.
From the opening scene, for example, director Wes Ball makes the audience connect immediately to Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and, as he’s overwhelmed with his new environment and the amount of people he meets, so are we. It also doesn’t help that he can’t remember anything, not even his own name to start with, and so the audience is left to construct their own idea of who he is and where he’s come from before finding out some of the truth (the film is very good at being cryptic, letting only the smallest of details slip).
The score is typical “action-film” but it does add the requisite suspense at key moments and does follow the action on screen well. Also some of the lines are typically cheesy Hollywood, e.g. the ‘get out or die trying’, but it’s not surprising in this type of film and despite these odd lines the acting is phenomenal from such a young cast. Although a few of the actors will be familiar faces, many may be new and the gravity they bring to scenes allows full immersion in their desperate situation and actually believe it.
Something that may be surprising is, despite this being a 12A, the film doesn’t hold back, meaning swearing is a key part of the dialogue. This may seem like a small point but is in fact something that makes the film seem more real; many films like to pretend that 14 year olds don’t even know swear words and thus make the action less believable.
This brings us neatly to the ending of the film which not only left us poised for the next installment (the sequel is due in 2015) but also made me want to cry and pull my hair out in frustration. My exact thoughts were something along the lines of “WHAT DOES IT MEAN and why would they do that to that character? Just why?”
Overall this film is an enigma and audiences should be prepared to leave with more questions than they started with.