Well, call me very pleasantly surprised by this film. The premise finds our erstwhile hero waking up with no memory. He’s in a pleasant little glade that’s totally walled in; there’s a door, but it leads to a huge maze, a maze that none of the other inhabitants of the glade have been able to find a way out of. You see, you can’t just stay in the maze; at night, the Grievers come out. What are the Grievers? Well . . . no one’s quite sure – no one has ever seen them . . . and returned to tell of it. Obviously, we have a high concept, dystopian young-adult novel adapted to film. But it’s actually really good. The pace is intense; the film never stops moving for a second. The plot twists just keep coming; the story does function very well as a mystery film – you’re never sure what’s going to happen next. The production design is really spectacular, especially in the maze, which has a broken down, abandoned future look. Some of the more obvious CGI, like the Grievers, isn’t very good, but Ball handles his action stuff pretty well. There’s a lot of . . . well, a lot of running in the film. And while the combat isn’t particularly well done, the scenes of the characters racing through the maze or running through rapidly closing traps or racing away from deadly enemies, well, wow, those scenes are all really intense and well done. This may have the best non-Tom Cruise running I’ve ever seen, you know? The characters are all stock types, but the actors all acquit themselves well, particularly Aml Ameen as Alby, the first guy to wake up in the Glade and the leader of the group, and Will Poulter, who spends the film doing, essentially, a damn fine Mark Wahlberg impression as the group bully. And the film is surprisingly grim and violent; let’s just say there’s a larger body count than I expected and when the deaths come, they come with some real impact. The climactic showdown in particular features two surprising and shockingly violent deaths. But enough about the ending; I won’t spoil it, but it’s actually really good and manages to avoid the disappointing “Oh, is THAT all that was going on?” syndrome these movies usually have. All in all, I thought this film was a really good mystery/adventure. Recommended, actually. You’ll have a great time. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – high concept mystery-adventure with fast pace, solid performances, intense action, surprisingly grim tone and a fully-realized world. Avoids the usual flaws of this kind of movie and provides an entertaining, engrossing ride. 3 ½ stars.