‘Maze Runner’ Keeps up Suspense

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It ain’t “Lord of the Flies,” but it ain’t bad….

The latest novel from the category known as young adult fiction to make it to the big screen is James Dashner’s ’09 bestseller “The Maze Runner.” The action begins, quite effectively and chillingly, in a darkened freight elevator which is delivering Thomas, with supplies, but sans memories, up to an idyllic glade where a group of similarly affected teens, all male until the last delivery, have set up a functional colony. The place’s main problem is a 100 foot-high wall around it, with the only potential escape route being through a constantly changing maze patrolled by cybernetic monsters called Grievers.

Preserved from the novel is an over-arching and analogous struggle between two emerging factions among the group, one trying to work within the situation, and the other restless to escape it. Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, becomes the default leader for the latter group, and faces a strong opponent in Alby, brought off well by Aml Ameen, as leader of the “stand-patters.”

Director Wes Ball peels back the layers at just the right pace to keep up the suspense while keeping the story moving. He also resists the temptation to make Thomasa studly hero, making him, rather, a conflicted thrust-upon leader,and building the identities of his opponents and followers with a strong supporting cast, including “Game of Thrones’” Thomas Brodie-Sangster. The maze itself is stunning, and the CGI monsters are seat-clenchingly terrifying. At the end, you’ll wonder if what you’ve just seen was the most efficient way for the shadowy figures behind it all to have extracted what they were looking for; it certainly ends up being an entertaining way… right up to the closing sequel tease…