The plot moves forward in a rapid fashion, with the intrepid kids uncovering the box, exploring the pipeworks beneath the city, and piecing together the clues that point towards an escape from the underground city.
Saorise Ronan (Academy Award nominee for Atonement) is Lina Mayfleet, a messenger who uncovers the box containing the deteriorating instructions. She teams up with Doon Harrow, played by Harry Treadaway, a young pipeworker's assistant who believes he knows how to fix the generator if he could spend some time with it.
City of Ember is a generally upbeat film with touches of suspense, clue-hunting, and adventure. It will likely find an enthusiastic audience among the young at whom it is aimed, but I was left needing more. The society needed some more meat to make the story more interesting.
This community could be seen as an allegory for current society. Government seems to be clueless as to how to deal with issues, content to try and save its own hide. There are overtones of the caste system, modified and turned into Assignment Day. What is the deal with that? Is there some age at which you become eligible? Or perhaps an education level? It does not seem that there was any requirement based on the lineup that was there. There was also a disturbing lack of intelligence in many of the adult characters; they all seemed more content to hold firm with the status quo than to shake anything up. This extends to technology — while one character is shown to be an inventor of sorts, we get more who have the "it's not my job" attitude. The level of technology seems rather lax for 200 years of development, plus whatever the city builders' and founders' had. No development of batteries or computers have left the city in the dark, so to speak. I mean, this society could not have been completely closed off, as I doubt all of the original inhabitants were born there.
Perhaps I am looking for too much in a film that barely crosses the 90-minute mark. There are some movies where I can overlook things like this, but for some reason they really bothered me and resulted in bringing the movie as whole down. I found my mind wandering, wondering why, allowing myself to be taken out by the lack of big picture logic in favor of small world wonder.