Film review – City of Ember (2008)

Adapted from the novel by Jeanne DuPrau and directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House), City of Ember is a family orientated science-fiction/fantasy about an underground city powered by a dying generator. While trying to save the generator, teenagers Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan from Atonement) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway from Control) discover that the inhabitants of Ember were supposed to have returned to the surface long ago. However, the city’s corrupt officials have a vested interest in keeping such information quiet.

There aren’t too many original ideas for fans of the genre and the climatic scenes lack a sense of urgency but by being such a visually exciting film, City of Ember compensates for these faults. Its wondrous steampunk production design evokes the films of Terry Gilliam (Brazil and Twelve Monkeys) and Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children).

Tim Robbins, Bill Murray and Martin Landau lead a terrific supporting cast and the idea of a society where the younger generation are fighting for a future that the older generation have either given up on, deny or wish to prevent for personal gain, is timely.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 318, 2008

© Thomas Caldwell, 2008