City of Ember
Directed By
Gil Kenan
Produced By
Seth Hanchett
Gary Goetzman
Tom Hanks
Steven Shareshian
Written By
Caroline Thompson
Based on
The City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau
Edited By
Adam P. Scott
Zach Staenberg
Xavier Pérez Grobet
Music By
Andrew Lockington
Walden Media
Distributed By
Release Date
October 10, 2008
90 minutes
Rating PG

City of Ember is an American fantasy film directed by Gil Kenan. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, Harry Treadaway, Toby Jones, Martin Landau, Mary Kay Place, Mackenzie Crook, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Tim Robbins.


As an unspecified global catastrophe looms, an underground city known as Ember is constructed to shelter a large group of survivors. In addition, "The Builders" have a small metal box intended for a future generation of Emberites is timed to open after 200 years. This box is entrusted to the Mayor of the City of Ember, and each Mayor passes it on to his or her successor. When the seventh Mayor suddenly dies however, the succession is broken, and overtime, the significance of the box is forgotten. The box opens by itself at the allotted time, but this goes unnoticed. Approximately 41 years later, Ember's generator begins to fail; causing the power to go out intermittently, and food, medicine and other necessities are in dangerously short supply.

At a rite of passage for all graduating students of Ember City School, illegitimate Mayor Cole stands before the students as they choose their adult occupations by lottery. Doon Harrow, the son of inventor and repairman Loris "Barrow" Harrow, is assigned "Messenger" while his classmate Lina Mayfleet is assigned "Pipeworks" and apprenticed to the elderly technician Sul. Shortly afterwards, both are displeased with their assigned jobs so they glady exchange their assignments and begin work in their respective positions (although Doon wanted to be an Electrician's Helper but Joss who received it refused to swap).

Lina runs to deliver her first dispatch to Clary who works at the Greenhouse. A weakened man appears out of the unknown region and locals quarantine and banned him of contamination. Lina is reminded of when she was told that her father died of illegal attempt to dig and search of salvation. She picks up a mandible of an enlarge beetle. Doon helps Sul wrap up leaking pipes. Sul dozes off, Doon wanting to fix the generator, walks into an unmapped tunnel, and discovers a storeroom with canned food on selves until a worker kicks him out. After Ember experience an intensive blackout, Doon and Lina decide to collaborate.   

At home, Lina inspects her grandmother who is looking for something important. Lina finds her baby sister Poppy chewing on paper from inside the opened metal box. As Lina goes to deliver a message to Cole, she sees a portrait of her great-great grandfather the seventh Mayor holding the same metal box. After another blackout, Lina's grandmother dies. Later, Lina and Poppy move in with a neighbor, Mrs. Murdo. Lina saves the scraps of paper, using some glue; Lina reassembles it as best she can. She enlists Doon's help to decipher its contents. He figures out the printed paper was typed by the Builders when comparing it to a restricted history book at the school. Gradually, they learn that it contains a set of instructions and directions for an exit from Ember. The box also contains a key card but only partial. They go to where Doon found the storeroom thinking they'll find a clue. After evading a gigantic star-nosed mole, Lina saw her father's old helmet and desperately inquires Clary, learning her father truly believe the existence of a way to the surface.

As Mayor Cole proposes a thorough solution, Lina caught her friend Lizzie being bribed with food and while walking the tunnels Doon uses a custom-made tool and unlock a hidden vault where Cole has been hoarding canned food for his own benefit whereas the Emberites go hungry. At Mrs. Murdo's house while putting Poppy to sleep, Doon petals the Mayfleets' old answering machine tape and heard his father's voice, realizing he also tried to leave the city. He confronts Loris reassuring him that there's hope. When Lina attempts to report Cole's crime, the Mayor, and even the attendants capture her and tries to steal the box, but she escapes during a blackout and snatch the other key card.    

Now fugitives from the Mayor's police, Clary hides Lina and Doon in a shed at the Greenhouse. They operate a drilling rig invented by Loris to sneak pass the guards. Combining the two key cards Doon recognizes it as the generator's insignia. Lina and Doon deemed their quest to venture out to the surface, but not before Lina brings Poppy along. Running to Pipeworks and matching the paper's contents, they unearth a space filled with lockers treated as boats meant for use in the exodus. Following the boat on a moving pavement it goes down to a subterranean river as the route to leaving Ember. One thing left to do is access a control room and by inserting the key card to set the vast waterwheels on a certain thrust and power surge so that the boats can make it through. But one of the waterwheels is jammed. With Sul's assistance, Doon, Lina, and Poppy ride the boat managed over the lowered waterwheel and slide down a cave. When the repercussions of their actions trigger a panic in Ember, the Mayor locks himself in his vault, only to be devoured by the giant mole.      

Doon, Lina, and Poppy eventually reach the end of the stream. They lit candles and climb up stairs to another room seeing a banner say "For The Good Of All Mankind!" Once they emerge onto the Earth's surface where, for the first time in their lives, witness a sunrise. A familiar looking big moth flies down a hole. They also located Ember in a hole in the ground, too far for them call to anyone. So before they explore, they drop a letter with information on how to get out, tied to a rock, into Ember, where it is found by Loris.



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