26th Jan2018

‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosa Salazar, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson | Written by T.S. Nowlin | Directed by Wes Ball

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This third and final entry in the Maze Runner franchise gives the YA series a rousing send-off, stream-lining the books’ overly complex plot in favour of a succession of exciting action set-pieces. It might be a little too long at a posterior-troubling two hours and twenty minutes, but better that than splitting the third part of the trilogy into two movies, like certain other dystopian teen movies we could mention.

To its credit, Maze Runner: The Death Cure assumes audiences are already familiar with the events of 2014′s The Maze Runner and 2015′s The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, because otherwise, what are you doing here in the first place? To that end, the film opens in rip-roaring fashion, with a thrilling train heist sequence as our hero Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden), attempt to rescue captured buddy Minho (Ki Hong Lee), with the assistance of resistance fighters Vince (Barry Pepper), Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito).

Unfortunately, though they successfully liberate an entire train carriage, Minho isn’t among the prisoners, so the team are forced to enter The Last City and infiltrate WCKD headquarters (that’s World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department, not the alcopop), where Minho is being experimented on by Thomas’ former-love-interest-turned-traitor Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), under the watchful eye of head scientist Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and her vicious cohort Janson (Aidan Gillen).

Returning series director Wes Ball has improved steadily throughout the trilogy and he crafts some genuinely thrilling action set-pieces here, including a number of highly implausible but no less exciting rescue missions. Of these, the opening train heist is a nicely staged early highlight (Ball has clearly been taking notes from the Fast and Furious franchise), but the winner is a spectacular sequence involving the audacious deployment of a giant crane that’s both gasp and giggle-inducing in equal measure. That sequence alone demonstrates the ways in which Maze Runner: The Death Cure is prepared to just gleefully go for broke in its final instalment, with impressive and enjoyable results.

There’s also the zombie element to the franchise – the Gladers are immune to the zombie virus that has plagued the earth and the scientists have been experimenting on them to find a cure – and Ball gets in his fair share of zombie-related thrills and spills too, busting out a handful of familiar zombie movie tropes to powerfully emotional effect.

The performances are strong across the board, with O’Brien (who thankfully seems to have recovered from the serious injury that delayed the film’s planned release) making a solid, likeable lead, Salazar displaying impressive action chops and Gillen clearly enjoying himself in the hissable villain part. Crucially, the film also takes time to give its supporting characters meaningful sub-plots, with Newt, Teresa and Minho all getting their fair share of both screentime and emotional moments.

On top of that, the production design team have really pulled out the stops for the final instalment, with stunning visuals for both The Last City and WCKD HQ. There’s even a cheeky nod towards the current U.S. administration, as Esposito’s character observes: “The walls are new – I guess that’s WCKD’s answer to everything.”

To be fair, the dialogue leaves a little to be desired and is mostly just adequate, aside from the small handful of characters granted one-liner privileges. Similarly, the pacing drags a little in the first half and certain characters (notably Walton Goggins’ Lawrence) feel like they’ve had half their scenes chopped out. Overall, however, this is an entertaining conclusion to the trilogy that won’t disappoint fans of the series. It won’t exactly cure death, but it will certainly alleviate boredom.

*** 3/5

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is in UK cinemas now.

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