For a re­view of “Maze Run­ner: The Death Cure,

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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

“In­sult”

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.★★★★    

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rita Hayek, left, and Adel Karam star in the Co­hen Me­dia Group’s new re­lease, “The In­sult.”

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