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The Essential Guide to Bristol
12 February 2009
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City Of Ember (PG)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/10/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 94 mins

Enjoyable fantasy adventure, enlivened by interesting characters, strong performances and an engaging premise.

What's it all about?
Based on the bestselling novel by Jeanne Duprau, City of Ember is set in an underground city where people have lived for over two centuries. However, something has gone wrong and the people are unaware they were supposed to return to the surface of the earth after 200 years had elapsed.

With the city's powerful generator on the brink of failure, young messenger Lina Mayfleet (Atonement's Saoirse Ronan) discovers a mysterious box that appears to indicate there may be a way out of the city. She appeals to her best friend, pipe works worker Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) to help her decipher the clues, but the two friends run foul of corrupt bureaucrats (Bill Murray as Mayor Cole and Toby Jones as Barton Snode) and soon find themselves on the run from the police.

The Good
Saoirse Ronan is rapidly establishing herself as one of our best young actresses and she's terrific here, bursting with energy and lighting up the screen whenever she appears. Treadaway is equally good as Doon and there's strong support from a superb cast that includes Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Liz Smith (as Lina's grandmother), Tim Robbins (as Doon's father), Martin Landau and Mackenzie Crook.

In addition, Bill Murray is perfectly cast as the greedy, apathetic Mayor, whilst Crook is suitably creepy as a sinister storeroom keeper. Director Gil Kenan keeps things moving at a decent pace and there's a satisfying focus on mysterious objects and puzzles that's vaguely reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies (the good ones). On top of that, the production design is extremely impressive, particularly in the costumes and the sets for the pipeworks and generator scenes.

The Bad
The film does occasionally lack depth, and by the end you're left wishing the script had fleshed out the surface reality a little.

Worth seeing?
This is an enjoyable, well made fantasy adventure that should appeal to both children and adults, although it's not quite as satisfying as it ought to be.

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City Of Ember (PG)
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