For a review of “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,
Of all the dystopian young adult franchises that “The Hunger Games” hath wrought, “The Maze Runner” series has always been the one of the most forthrightly entertaining — and the sweatiest. But that sweat is evidence of what makes the trilogy work. As directed by Wes Ball, it takes off at a full sprint and never slows down. It can be a pleasantly pummeling experience, an adrenaline- drenched ride delivered by the capable hands of Ball, with the appealingly energetic star Dylan O’Brien. In the third and ostensibly final film, “The Death Cure,” pushes the action so far it hits the edge of unpleasant.
The franchise brings a boyish, impish energy to the teen apocalypse genre. “The Hunger Games” was nakedly emotional, each tragedy channeled through the primal scream of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss. “Divergent” was always too fastidious, cold and remote to connect. “Maze Runner” brings the grime and grit to the race for survival in a dystopian post-civilization that’s eating its own young. And as we discovered in the second film, “The Scorch Trials,” this apocalyptic tale is actually a zombie movie, which gives the whole enterprise that muchmore bite.
“The Maze Runner” was plainly task- oriented — a bunch of teens dropped into a mysterious glade have to try and escape through a maze every day — and the series never loses sight of the ethos. The maze is metaphorical rather than physical now, as Thomas ( O’Brien) tries to escape the maze of a crumbling civilization and the evil corporation WICKED. Thomas and his young cohort have found themselves WICKED’s test subjects, as they’re immune to the Flare disease that’s turning humans into bloodthirsty “cranks.”
All Thomas can do is run, and run he does, often without thinking the whole thing through. His goal to simply get out with all his friends alive proves to be difficult when he and his team of rebels hijack the wrong train car, leaving his friend Minho ( Ki Hong Lee) to withstand torturous trials at WICKED headquarters while scientists try to develop a virusfighting serum. When Thomas sets off on a rescue mission to grab Minho from the last standing city, things are complicated when he discovers his former flame Teresa ( Kaya Scodelario) is one of the scientists working on the serum ( the “death cure” if you will).
The overall plot itself isn’t all that complex, though the path is riddled with obstacles, including a leprousWalton Goggins, leading an uprising at the walls of the city, old friends from the Glade popping up left and right and an army of cranks and super- soldiers bearing down in all directions. Ball and screenwriter T. S. Nowlin keep a tight grip on the tone and the relentless pace, but they often back the story and characters into corners that only a deus ex machina can fix. By the time the third or fourth savior swoops out of the sky, it gets to be a bit contrived.
Ball embraces the maximalist approach, and as the film pushes the two- hour, 20- minute mark, it devolves into a seizure- inducing mass of strobe lighting and noise, all gunshots, crunching bone, explosions and crumbling buildings. It’s overwhelming, numbing and exhausting. In “The Death Cure,” the “Maze Runner” pushes it to the limit and ultimately ends up spent.
“Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” a Twentieth Century Fox release, is rated PG- 13 for intense sequences of sci- fi violence and action, language and some thematic elements. Running time: 140 minutes.★★ ½
In Ziad Doueiri’s searing “The Insult,” a small slight spirals wildly out of control. It seems unreal that such a minor event can spark such a firestorm, but using the incident as a powerful symbol, Doueiri reveals the tinder box of trauma that is Lebanon nearly 30 years after its Civil War. Drenched with a gasoline of machismo, stubbornness and pride, it’s no wonder everything goes up in flames.
Nominated for the Best Foreign Language film Academy Award, this tightly paced film showcases two powerhouse dramatic performances fromLebanese comedian Adel Karam and Palestinian theater actor KamelEl Basha, who won the Best Actor Prize at the Venice Film Festival for this role.
Karam plays Tony, a Lebanese Christian, an auto mechanic with his own garage and a baby on theway with his young wife. One day, he encounters Yasser, a Palestinian engineer supervising a work crew repairing city code violations on his street. The two men tussle over the illegal open drain pipe on Tony’s balcony. Ugly epithets are thrown and a feud is underway.
Part of what fuels the indignity of the insult is both men’s pride and their refusal to back down fromtheir positions, or even apologize. But when Tony shouts at Yasser he wished Ariel Sharon had wiped all Palestinians out, it becomes clear this isn’t just about posturing, but about prejudice, and things turn violent.
Tony ultimately sues Yasser, and “The Insult” evolves into a riveting courtroom drama, with Yasser represented by a young hotshot female lawyer, Nadine ( Diamand Bou Abboud), while Tony’s case is taken on by a legendary lawyer of the old guard in Lebanon, Wajdi Wehbe ( Camille Salameh), who seems to have ulterior nationalist political motives. The two lawyers are wellmatched, and lock horns, reaching deep into history for context to argue for their client’s justice.
The case, as it spreads into themedia, takes on symbolic weight, as Palestinians and Lebanese Christians riot in the streets, exposing the fragility of the truce between the two groups. It becomes a treatise not just on words or respect, but on the nature of the Middle East, and the deep- rooted traumas sown by war and unrest.
The script, written by Doueiri and Joelle Touma, is a masterful example of withholding and revealing information, and of nuanced character development. Both Yasser and Tony are shown to be good men. Flawed, yes, but inherently noble. We follow what happens in their lives as the trial unfolds, moments of war and peace in the street as the battle unfolds meticulously in the courtroom.
Doueiri and Touma carefully parcel out bits of information that drop like bombs, for the impact they have on the story. Slowly, they peel the bandage off the wound of the war, expose the unspoken traumas to the air, to let them breathe and heal. It’s ugly, and painful, but so necessary.
“The Insult” isn’t a subtle film, but it’s a powerful and impeccably crafted tale arguing for the crucial importance of addressing history and facing down trauma that welds hair triggers onto our souls. Doueiriweaves a starkly intimate fable of violence that’s at once deeply personal and universally, globally relevant.
“The Insult,” a Cohen Media Group release, is rated R for language and some violent images. Running time: 112 minutes.★★★★
Rita Hayek, left, and Adel Karam star in the Cohen Media Group’s new release, “The Insult.”