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Now showing at Brewery Arts Centre 122a,Highgate,Kendal,Cumbria LA9 4HE 01539 725133

  • '71
  • Abel
  • Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Northern Soul
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Subtitled)
  • The Book Of Life
  • The Book Of Life 3D
  • The Maze Runner

'71 4 stars

movie title

Gary Hook finishes his training with other squaddies and is immediately dispatched to 1971 Belfast to facilitate a fragile peace in the city. On his first day on the streets, Gary becomes embroiled in a riot and he is separated from the other British soldiers. Chased down alleyways by an army gang of militia who want him dead, Gary is trapped in an alien environment far from the safety of his barracks, unable to distinguish between allies and foes.

  • GenreAction, Drama, Thriller, War
  • CastSam Reid, Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, Sam Hazeldine.
  • DirectorYann Demange.
  • WriterGregory Burke.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration99 mins
  • Official site
  • Release10/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

A teenage soldier becomes separated from his platoon in the cauldron of violence of 1971 Belfast in Yann Demange's nail-biting survival thriller. Punctuated by kinetic action sequences that relentlessly tighten the knot of tension in our stomachs, '71 is a dazzling debut from the TV director, who made the acclaimed Channel 4 series Top Boy.

Demange puts leading man Jack O'Connell through the physical wringer as he explores the sectarian divide through the eyes of a wet-behind-the-ears recruit, who is marked for death by the provisional IRA and supposed allies.

Juddering handheld camerawork during chase sequences and a nerve-racking game of hide and seek keep us uncomfortably close to the carnage, and only a few hours after the stricken soldier has foolishly assured his kid brother that this first tour of duty will be a breeze: "I'm not leaving the country so you've got nothing to worry about." Home is where the heartbreak is.

Squaddie Gary Hook (O'Connell) completes his gruelling training and is immediately dispatched to the Northern Irish capital to facilitate the fragile peace. Under the command of platoon leader Lieutenant Armitage (Sam Reid), Gary and fellow recruits head to the Catholic west.

At first, hostility amounts to little more than potty-mouthed children throwing water bombs full of urine. However, a house-to-house search spirals out of control and during the subsequent riot, Gary and pal Thommo (Jack Lowden) are left behind.

A small gang of provisional IRA comprising ruthless leader Quinn (Killian Scott), sidekick Haggerty (Martin McCann) and newbie Sean (Barry Keoghan) shoot Thommo at close range but Gary escapes, sprinting down alleyways with the gun-toting assailants in pursuit. Thankfully, Gary finds sanctuary and as night falls, he traces a path back to the barracks under cover of darkness.

A boy called Billy (Corey McKinley) offers assistance but when the tyke's makeshift plan goes horribly wrong, Gary turns to Brigid (Charlie Murphy) and her father, Eamon (Richard Dormer), a former army medic, who has had his fill of the uniform. "You're just a piece of meat to them," Eamon warns Gary.

'71 masterfully sustains tension without getting bogged down in the thorny politics of the era. Nerves are shredded to tatters in the opening half hour and screenwriter Gregory Burke wrings every drop of suspense from his neat set-up.

A detour to a loyalist pub is orchestrated and edited with brio. O'Connell follows up his bruising portrayal of a young offender in Starred Up with another emotionally charged performance, holding his character's fears at bay until that particular dam bursts and sobs rack his aching body.

Lines between allies and adversaries are repeatedly blurred, stacking the odds heavily against Gary as he ducks for cover, and we hunker down with him, brows beaded with sweat and knuckles white with fear.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

Abel 3 stars

movie title

Cecilia is abandoned by her husband Anselmo and left to fend for her daughter Selene and nine-year-old son, Abel. Money is tight and Cecilia is forced to sell off her worldly possessions to make ends meet. Adding to her woes, Abel adopts the guise of the man of the house and even starts behaving like the errant old man, slobbing in front of the television and barking commands to Cecilia. When Anselmo returns after two years' absence, tensions flare.

  • GenreDrama, World
  • CastKarina Gidi, Christopher Ruiz-Esparza, Geraldine Alejandra, Gerardo Ruiz-Esparza, Jose Maria Yazpik.
  • DirectorDiego Luna.
  • WriterDiego Luna, Augusto Mendoza.
  • CountryMex
  • Duration82 mins
  • Official site
  • Release07/02/2011 (selected cinemas)

Mexican actor Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Rudo Y Cursi) makes his feature directorial debut with this quirky portrait of childhood innocence. Cecilia (Karina Gidi) is abandoned by her husband Anselmo (Jose Maria Yazpik) and left to fend for her daughter Selene (Geraldine Alejandra) and nine-year-old son, Abel (Christopher Ruiz-Esparza). Money is tight and Cecilia is forced to sell off her worldly possessions to make ends meet. Adding to her woes, Abel adopts the guise of the man of the house and even starts behaving like the errant old man, slobbing in front of the television and barking commands to Cecilia. When Anselmo returns after two years' absence, he expects to assume control of the household but he learns that this could prove damaging for deluded Abel. So the father plays along with the boy. However, Anselmo can only bite his tongue for so long.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day 3 stars

movie title

Every day seems to be a bad day for 11-year-old Alexander Cooper. He's the laughing stock of the entire school, his efforts to impress classmate Becky end in disaster. Ignored and misunderstood by his family, Alexander makes a birthday wish for the rest of the Cooper clan to experience just one calamitous day so they will all sympathise with his plight. Sure enough, the entire Cooper family endures a day crammed with mishaps and misadventures that threatens to leave them heartbroken and penniless.

Based on Judith Viorst's 1972 children's picture book, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is an effervescent comedy about the trials and tribulations that unite a modern family.

Sweet and inoffensive to its candy-coloured core, Miguel Arteta's film bursts with good intentions and wholesome ideals, teaching the titular tyke a valuable lesson about weathering an emotional storm in the company of people you love. Even if they are the sample people who unwittingly set in motion the chain reaction of mishaps and misadventures.

Rob Lieber's simplistic and episodic script ricochets between the different family members as their carefully ordered worlds implode: a mother races against time to prevent Dick Van Dyke (playing himself) from reading her children's book replete with an embarrassing typo; a father inadvertently sets himself on fire while trying to impress potential employers at a job interview; a daughter guzzles cough syrup to overcome a stinking cold that jeopardises her starring role in a school production of Peter Pan.

Anything that can go wrong does and Arteta captures each cartoonish calamity with a light touch, playing for laughs rather than revelling in the pain behind the pratfalls.

Eleven-year-old Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) feels like the universe is conspiring against him. He's the laughing stock of the entire school, his efforts to impress classmate Becky (Sidney Fullmer) have ended in ignominy and Philip Parker (Lincoln Melcher), the most popular boy in the year, has just announced he is having his birthday party on the same day as Alexander.

Misunderstood by his picture postcard family - father Ben (Steve Carell), mother Kelly (Jennifer Garner), older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette), sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and baby brother Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas) - Alexander makes a birthday wish for the rest of the Cooper clan to walk in his shoes for 24 hours.

"I wish they knew what it felt like to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," he laments, blowing out the birthday candle on his cake. As if by magic, the entire Cooper family endures a day that threatens to leave them heartbroken and penniless.

As the calamities stack up, Alexander wonders if he should come clean to his loved ones about his involvement in their spectacular downfall.

Alexander And The Terrible... is an entertaining half-term treat for all ages that doesn't drizzle on the sentimentality too thick. Oxenbould is an appealingly awkward hero and Carell and Garner offer robust support, embracing the broad physical comedy that their roles demand including a frenzied bicycle ride and a bruising encounter with an ostrich.

"I think you've got to have the bad days so you can love the good days even more," philosophises Alexander towards the end of this madcap journey of self-discovery. All together now: awwwww.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

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Northern Soul 3 stars

movie title

John Clark is a loner in his northern community, one step out of time with the other young people, until he meets Matt, who introduces John to the electrifying sounds and moves of Northern Soul. The young men are swept up by this cultural movement and cannot resist the pull of the drugs and booze that are rife in the dancehalls. Friendships are tested to breaking point but the music plays on.

  • GenreDrama, Indie, Musical
  • CastAntonia Thomas, Christian McKay, Steve Coogan, Lisa Stansfield, John Thomson.
  • DirectorElaine Constantine.
  • WriterElaine Constantine.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.northernsoulthefilm.com
  • Release17/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

Director Elaine Constantine steps back to the 1970s for this drama about two friends who encounter a burgeoning youth culture that changes a generation and influences numerous songwriters, producers, DJs and designers. John Clark (Elliot James Langridge) is a loner in his northern community, one step out of time with the other young people and his parents (Christian McKay, Lisa Stansfield), until he meets Matt (Josh Whitehouse), who introduces John to the electrifying sounds and moves of Northern Soul. The young men are swept up by this cultural movement and cannot resist the pull of the drugs and booze that are rife in the dancehalls. Friendships are tested to breaking point but the music plays on.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 stars

movie title

Genetically modified turtle brothers Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello grow up in the sewers of New York under the guidance of their mentor: a giant rat called Splinter, who teaches them Ninjitsu. Aided by plucky journalist April O'Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick, the turtles wage war on a shadowy figure called Shredder and his army, known as the Foot Clan, who are spreading fear and terror throughout the Big Apple.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • CastWill Arnett, Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Tohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg.
  • DirectorJonathan Liebesman.
  • WriterAndre Nemec, Josh Appelbaum, Evan Daugherty.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.ninjaturtlesmovie.co.uk
  • Release11/10/2014 (Scotland); 17/10/2014 (UK & Ireland)

The adventures of turtle brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael began life in the mid 1980s as an irreverent comic book and rapidly spawned an animated TV series, a trilogy of films and a dizzying array of merchandise. Turtle power has endured to the present day, including a computer-animated series on Nickelodeon.

It's no surprise then that Jonathan Liebesman, director of Wrath Of The Titans, has resurrected the heroes in a half shell for the big screen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an outlandish, action-heavy romp that remains faithful to earlier incarnations, condensing the characters' back-story into a snazzy comic book-style opening sequence.

Die-hard fans will enjoy the heavy whiff of nostalgia, but if Liebesman was hoping to indoctrinate a new generation, he has cowabungled it. His film is incredibly violent, albeit bloodless, reducing two very young boys in my screening to distressed screams.

The lack of spilt blood is preposterous, especially when the turtles face chief villain Shredder, who sports armour festooned with blades. Razor sharp projectiles scythe through the air but miraculously don't nick flesh. Shredder by name but not by nefarious nature.

Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) grow up in the sewers of New York City. They flourish under rat mentor Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who teaches Ninjitsu to his surrogate sons.

During one of the turtles' sorties above ground, Channel 6 news reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) glimpses the crime-fighters, who are preparing for war with hulking terrorist Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his army, the Foot Clan.

Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello fear exposure so they track down April and spirit her to their subterranean lair. "It's our Fortress Of Solitude, our Hogwarts, our Xavier's Academy," whispers Donatello, piling on the pop culture references.

Once April learns of the turtles' noble quest to destroy Shredder, she pledges her allegiance and ropes in wisecracking cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), and prominent businessman Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who has publicly declared war on the Foot Clan in a televised speech.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles updates the characters for the modern era. Thus Mikey has a penchant for cat videos on the internet and the three scriptwriters shoe-horn verbal references to films and TV shows with abandon: "Maybe she's a Jedi," whispers Mikey after April reveals she knows Splinter's name without an introduction.

The turtles are rendered through motion-capture performances and look rather creepy, but they somersault to perfection in action set pieces including a tumble down a snow-laden mountainside.

Alas, the hefty budget hasn't stretched to remedying basic continuity errors like when Fox's plastic heroine emerges from a downpour with dry, flowing hair. Believe that and you'll lap up this bland turtle soup.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

This film is also showing at:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Subtitled) 3 stars

movie title

Genetically modified turtle brothers Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello grow up in the sewers of New York under the guidance of their mentor: a giant rat called Splinter, who teaches them Ninjitsu. Aided by plucky journalist April O'Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick, the turtles wage war on a shadowy figure called Shredder and his army, known as the Foot Clan, who are spreading fear and terror throughout the Big Apple.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • CastTohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Arnett, Megan Fox, William Fichtner.
  • DirectorJonathan Liebesman.
  • WriterAndre Nemec, Josh Appelbaum, Evan Daugherty.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.ninjaturtlesmovie.co.uk
  • Release11/10/2014 (Scotland); 17/10/2014 (UK & Ireland)

The adventures of turtle brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael began life in the mid 1980s as an irreverent comic book and rapidly spawned an animated TV series, a trilogy of films and a dizzying array of merchandise. Turtle power has endured to the present day, including a computer-animated series on Nickelodeon.

It's no surprise then that Jonathan Liebesman, director of Wrath Of The Titans, has resurrected the heroes in a half shell for the big screen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an outlandish, action-heavy romp that remains faithful to earlier incarnations, condensing the characters' back-story into a snazzy comic book-style opening sequence.

Die-hard fans will enjoy the heavy whiff of nostalgia, but if Liebesman was hoping to indoctrinate a new generation, he has cowabungled it. His film is incredibly violent, albeit bloodless, reducing two very young boys in my screening to distressed screams.

The lack of spilt blood is preposterous, especially when the turtles face chief villain Shredder, who sports armour festooned with blades. Razor sharp projectiles scythe through the air but miraculously don't nick flesh. Shredder by name but not by nefarious nature.

Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) grow up in the sewers of New York City. They flourish under rat mentor Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who teaches Ninjitsu to his surrogate sons.

During one of the turtles' sorties above ground, Channel 6 news reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) glimpses the crime-fighters, who are preparing for war with hulking terrorist Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his army, the Foot Clan.

Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello fear exposure so they track down April and spirit her to their subterranean lair. "It's our Fortress Of Solitude, our Hogwarts, our Xavier's Academy," whispers Donatello, piling on the pop culture references.

Once April learns of the turtles' noble quest to destroy Shredder, she pledges her allegiance and ropes in wisecracking cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), and prominent businessman Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who has publicly declared war on the Foot Clan in a televised speech.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles updates the characters for the modern era. Thus Mikey has a penchant for cat videos on the internet and the three scriptwriters shoe-horn verbal references to films and TV shows with abandon: "Maybe she's a Jedi," whispers Mikey after April reveals she knows Splinter's name without an introduction.

The turtles are rendered through motion-capture performances and look rather creepy, but they somersault to perfection in action set pieces including a tumble down a snow-laden mountainside.

Alas, the hefty budget hasn't stretched to remedying basic continuity errors like when Fox's plastic heroine emerges from a downpour with dry, flowing hair. Believe that and you'll lap up this bland turtle soup.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

The Book Of Life 3 stars

movie title

In the town of San Angel on the Day Of The Dead, underworld gods La Muerte and Xibalba bet on the outcome of a love triangle involving friends Manolo, Joaquin and Maria. La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, believes that sensitive Manolo will get the girl while Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, selects courageous Joaquin as his champion and secretly boosts the young man's chances with an enchanted medal of protection.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance
  • CastRon Perlman, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Kate del Castillo, Diego Luna, Ice Cube.
  • DirectorJorge R Gutierrez.
  • WriterJorge R Gutierrez, Douglas Langdale.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official sitewww.bookoflifemovie.co.uk
  • Release24/10/2014

In Mexican culture, Dia de los Muertos or Day Of The Dead is an important annual gathering for families and friends to honour the memory of loved ones who are no longer with them. The three-day celebration, which begins on October 31, traditionally involves adorning graves and specially constructed altars with sugar skulls, flowers and other gifts with special significance to the departed.

This fiesta of remembrance provides a vibrant and poignant backdrop to Jorge R Gutierrez's fantastical computer-animated fable about three friends, who discover there is love after death.

The Book Of Life razzle dazzles our eyes, especially in 3D, cramming as much retina-searing colour and detail as possible into each frame. Co-writer Douglas Lansdale adds plentiful humour to offset the film's air of tragedy including a chorus of singing nuns and a waspish grandmother, voiced by Grey DeLisle, who scene-steals with every purse-lipped outburst.

Museum tour guide Mary Beth (voiced by Christina Applegate) leads a group of unruly schoolchildren through an exhibition about Mexican folklore. She leads the whippersnappers to a chamber that houses the fabled Book Of Life and recounts one particular story, which unfolds in the town of San Angel on the Day Of The Dead.

Rival gods La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman) agree a wager on the resolution of a love triangle involving two boys, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum), who are both in love with their friend Maria (Zoe Saldana).

La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, believes that sensitive Manolo will get the girl and realise his musical ambitions rather than take up the mantle of his matador father (Hector Elizondo). "Music is not a profession fit for a Sanchez bullfighter!" rages the old man.

Meanwhile, Xibalba (Ron Perlman), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, selects courageous Joaquin as his champion and secretly boosts the young man's chances with an enchanted medal of protection.

When the time finally comes for Maria to choose between her suitors, conniving Xibalba attempts to influence her decision to ensure he wins the bet.

The Book Of Life inhabits a macabre universe that Tim Burton has made his own but director Gutierrez and his team of animators opt for a more jaunty, upbeat tone enhanced by a bouncy soundtrack replete with cover versions of Elvis Presley, Radiohead and Rod Stewart. "What is it with Mexicans and death?" asks a goth kid on the museum tour, somewhat tongue in cheek.

Luna and Tatum deliver lively vocal performances and Saldana essays a spunky heroine, who epitomises girl power, flanked by a cute porcine sidekick. Action sequences are orchestrated at a brisk pace, punctuated by soaring serenades.

Gutierrez's film strikes a pleasing balance between giggles and soul-searching, tackling tricky themes of mortality, self-sacrifice and the afterlife without giving young audiences nightmares.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

This film is also showing at:

The Book Of Life 3D 3 stars

In the town of San Angel on the Day Of The Dead, underworld gods La Muerte and Xibalba bet on the outcome of a love triangle involving friends Manolo, Joaquin and Maria. La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, believes that sensitive Manolo will get the girl while Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, selects courageous Joaquin as his champion and secretly boosts the young man's chances with an enchanted medal of protection.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance
  • CastZoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, Kate del Castillo, Diego Luna, Ice Cube.
  • DirectorJorge R Gutierrez.
  • WriterJorge R Gutierrez, Douglas Langdale.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official sitewww.bookoflifemovie.co.uk
  • Release24/10/2014

In Mexican culture, Dia de los Muertos or Day Of The Dead is an important annual gathering for families and friends to honour the memory of loved ones who are no longer with them. The three-day celebration, which begins on October 31, traditionally involves adorning graves and specially constructed altars with sugar skulls, flowers and other gifts with special significance to the departed.

This fiesta of remembrance provides a vibrant and poignant backdrop to Jorge R Gutierrez's fantastical computer-animated fable about three friends, who discover there is love after death.

The Book Of Life razzle dazzles our eyes, especially in 3D, cramming as much retina-searing colour and detail as possible into each frame. Co-writer Douglas Lansdale adds plentiful humour to offset the film's air of tragedy including a chorus of singing nuns and a waspish grandmother, voiced by Grey DeLisle, who scene-steals with every purse-lipped outburst.

Museum tour guide Mary Beth (voiced by Christina Applegate) leads a group of unruly schoolchildren through an exhibition about Mexican folklore. She leads the whippersnappers to a chamber that houses the fabled Book Of Life and recounts one particular story, which unfolds in the town of San Angel on the Day Of The Dead.

Rival gods La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman) agree a wager on the resolution of a love triangle involving two boys, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum), who are both in love with their friend Maria (Zoe Saldana).

La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, believes that sensitive Manolo will get the girl and realise his musical ambitions rather than take up the mantle of his matador father (Hector Elizondo). "Music is not a profession fit for a Sanchez bullfighter!" rages the old man.

Meanwhile, Xibalba (Ron Perlman), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, selects courageous Joaquin as his champion and secretly boosts the young man's chances with an enchanted medal of protection.

When the time finally comes for Maria to choose between her suitors, conniving Xibalba attempts to influence her decision to ensure he wins the bet.

The Book Of Life inhabits a macabre universe that Tim Burton has made his own but director Gutierrez and his team of animators opt for a more jaunty, upbeat tone enhanced by a bouncy soundtrack replete with cover versions of Elvis Presley, Radiohead and Rod Stewart. "What is it with Mexicans and death?" asks a goth kid on the museum tour, somewhat tongue in cheek.

Luna and Tatum deliver lively vocal performances and Saldana essays a spunky heroine, who epitomises girl power, flanked by a cute porcine sidekick. Action sequences are orchestrated at a brisk pace, punctuated by soaring serenades.

Gutierrez's film strikes a pleasing balance between giggles and soul-searching, tackling tricky themes of mortality, self-sacrifice and the afterlife without giving young audiences nightmares.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

This film is also showing at:

The Maze Runner 4 stars

movie title

A teenager called Thomas arrives in a green area called The Glade, which is home to dozens of other boys, whose memories have also been wiped. Gargantuan walls enclose The Glade and every morning, one wall parts to reveal a maze, which 'runners' explore in the vain hope of finding an exit. The runners must return before dusk when the wall closes and the maze reconfigures.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Family, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastDylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Blake Cooper.
  • DirectorWes Ball.
  • WriterGrant Pierce Myers, Noah Oppenheim, T S Nowlin.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration113 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/MazeRunnerUK?brand_redir=1
  • Release10/10/2014

Based on the bestselling novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is a testosterone-fuelled survival thriller cast from the same robust mould as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Like those dystopian nightmares, Wes Ball's film centres on naive characters, teetering on the cusp of adulthood, who are forced to make stark choices between life and death to secure freedom.

Only here, adolescent males are trapped in the moral mire and forced to establish a microcosm of self-governing society a la Lord Of The Flies in which the strongest take charge and the meek keep their heads down.

While The Hunger Games and Divergent expended valuable time establishing character back stories and motivations, this opening salvo of The Maze Runner employs a nifty cheat: amnesia. All of the protagonists are stripped bare of memories including their identity, emerging from the darkness of a lift shaft into an enclosed green space called The Glade as blank slates.

"I can't remember anything," whimpers newbie Thomas (Dylan O'Brien).
"You get your name back in a day or two. It's the one thing they let us keep," explains Alby (Aml Ameen), the de facto leader, who emerged into this strange prison three years ago.

Gargantuan walls enclose The Glade and every morning, one wall parts to reveal a maze which 'runners' like Minho (Ki Hong Lee) map while avoiding hideous denizens called Grievers in the vain hope of finding an exit. The runners must return before dusk when the wall closes and the maze reconfigures.

Having plucked his name from the fog of his mind, Thomas forges friendships with Alby, second-in-command Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and runt of the litter Chuck (Blake Cooper), but falls foul of brutish rival Gally (Will Poulter).

Out of the blue, a girl called Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) emerges from the lift. She woozily claims to know Thomas and paranoia runs rampant...

For the opening hour, The Maze Runner is lean and taut, rattling along at breakneck speed to the beat of composer John Paesano's propulsive score. The threat of bloodshed hangs in the air but it's only when Thomas strays into the labyrinth that the film unveils a surprisingly nasty streak, dispatching the good-looking cast in a shockingly cold, clinical fashion.

Director Ball doesn't succumb to squeamishness or sentimentality: death comes quickly and gruesomely, and the strongest, most noble and endearing characters are prime fodder for the rampaging Grievers. The film earns its 12A certificate without flinching.

O'Brien and Ameen anchor the young ensemble with fine performances, with sterling support from Lee, Brodie-Sangster and Poulter, the latter fleshing out his punishment-fixated bully with aplomb.

Scodelario is noticeably short-changed but presumably, she will play a pivotal role - from beyond the grave or in the flesh - in next year's fleet-footed sequel, The Scorch Trials. Burn, baby burn.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 30th October 2014

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