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City of Ember

(City of Ember)

November 25, 2008

We've all seen post-apocalyptic, societal mystery movies before. City of Ember falls neatly into that category. Ember is the subterranean city constructed by "The Builders" after an unnamed (most likely nuclear) catastrophe topside. The intention to repopulate the surface after a two hundred-year hiatus goes astray after the best laid plans fail. Over seven hundred years pass, as Ember falls ever deeper into apathetic decay. Ultimately, a young messenger, Lina Mayfleet, enthusiastically portrayed by Saoirse Ronan, stumbles on a cryptic box left behind by The Builders with corroded instructions showing the way out. The corrupt mayor, played with Suessian tummy padding by an otherwise believable Bill Murray, wants to squelch any potential escape, fearing a loss of power and control over the easily manipulated inhabitants. With the aid of a youthful wannabe Engineer (Harry Treadaway), Lina staunchly bucks society and valiantly attempts to decrypt the secrets of the box so she can show her people a better way.Although we've seen many of the plot points before (Logan's Run meets Dark City meets any other "kid as hero" movie), City of Ember is still clever and creative in its journey from dark to light. The characters are predictable but still engaging. Visually, the world of Ember is very well envisioned and executed, with exquisite attention to detail. One can almost smell the confines of a city that's been buried for seven centuries. The most pleasant surprise of the film is the highly-watchable, extremely underused Martin Landau. Even though reduced to a minor "old guy" character part, Landau still knows how to inject a spark as only he can.Overall, City of Ember is a pleasant, watchable diversion, and its 95 minute runtime helps keep it from bogging down. Rating: B-

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