Urban Cinefile
"When doing a film like this, you have to get over that slightly glamorous feeling of playing a heroin addict, which I did after I started meeting some real addicts "  -Ewan McGregor on Trainspotting
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday September 22, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



The City of Ember, built as a refuge for humanity and powered by a massive generator, was designed 200 years ago - only to last 200 years. Food and power have started running out and everyone is worried, but at the annual Assignment Day, the city's Mayor (Bill Murray) continues to give out work tasks to the graduates. Lina (Saoirse Ronan) is hoping to be given the job of Messenger while Doon (Harry Treadaway) wants to be assigned to the Pipeworks. They achieve their dreams by swapping jobs with each other, solidifying their friendship. When Lina discovers an old metal box in her grandmother's closet she finds cryptic papers, and with the help of Doon and his father Loris (Tim Robbins), resolves to decipher the mystery and help the citizens escape before it is too late.

Review by Louise Keller:
Although it starts slowly, there are plenty of rewards in this well crafted family fantasy adventure, as it explores a world in which light bulbs form the sky and a powerful generator acts as its heartbeat. The inhabitants of The City of Ember can only dream of a blue sky to replace the constant, prolonged blackouts and a time when food is no longer in short supply. Based on the novel by Jeanne Duprau, the strength of this adaptation is its enveloping production design and a strong cast, headed by the ever-impressive 14 year old Saoirse Ronan, who dazzled in Atonement and Death Defying Acts - and continues to do so.

Notice what no-one else notices, and you'll know what no-one else knows, Tim Robbins' Loris tells his son Doon (Harry Treadaway) by way of advice when the teenager is assigned to his new job in the Pipeworks. With a colour palette of dark browns, the look of the film is rather dour, but there's plenty of colour in the performances of the supporting cast, namely Bill Murray as the corrupt, pot-bellied Mayor who quotes rhetorical nonsense like 'More important than answers, we need to find solutions.' It's a pleasure to watch Murray in any role and here he combines his comical deadpan expression with some subtle darker ones. Toby Jones provides good support as the Mayor's sleazy offsider and I especially liked Martin Landau as the eccentric Pipeworks chief who falls asleep on the job. Tim Robbins is also well cast and credible as the inventor who knows more than he tells.

Parents with young children beware - the scenes involving a giant monster with huge red tentacles may cause distress. Young teens and their families will get the most out of the Indiana Jones-style adventure and the film comes into its own as Lina and Doon make astonishing discoveries which lead them into a course of action from which there is no return. There is never any doubt as to where the story is heading, nonetheless it is well told and reaches a satisfying conclusion as Lina and Doon find a way together to make the pieces of the puzzle fit.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2008)

CAST: Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, B. J. Hogg, Martin Landau, Saoirse Ronan, Mary Kay Place, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Heathcote Williams

PRODUCER: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks


SCRIPT: Caroline Thompson (book by Jeanne Duprau)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Xavier Pérez Grobet

EDITOR: Adam P. Scott, Zach Staenberg

MUSIC: Andrew Lockington


RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 11, 2008

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019