‘Fahrenheit 451’ (2018) Review

Fahrenheit-451-posterFahrenheit 451 is a dystopian drama film written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, based on the book of the same name by Ray Bradbury. The film stars Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, Sofia Boutella, Lilly Singh, Grace Lynn Kung and Martin Donovan and follows Guy Montag, a “fireman”, in Columbus, Ohio. In the distant future “firemen” burn now-illegal books, as the conflicting ideology in them is thought to be the cause of the second Civil War (a war which cost millions of Americans their lives) and arrest “Eels” (book-reading outcasts). After a meeting a young woman named Clarisse, Montag begins to question his past, the Ministry (government), and his role in society. Ramin Bahrani does a decent job directing the film. He manages to give each of the main characters an even amount of screen time while delving into their pasts enough for the viewers to understand their motives. He also manages to capture the bleakness of a futuristic society without free knowledge. Bahrani updates the story to include the burning of music, television, and data in addition to books. Michael B. Jordan turns in a good performance as Guy Montag. He is a young but experienced fireman who is very good at his job. He looks up to his captain as a father figure and wishes to one day be in his position. Jordan portrays Montag as full of charisma when in public view, but slightly timid when meeting new people accentuating how little actual knowledge he has that wasn’t censored by the Ministry. Michael Shannon does well as Captain Beatty who is tough, experienced, and dutiful. Shannon portrays Beatty as a conflicted man who questions the role of the firemen in society but keeps these questions buried deep, refusing to give in because it is his responsibility. The rest of the cast is there to serve the main characters’ story arcs, limited mainly to the background, and given little development to make them interesting. And that’s a major negative of the film. Nothing really feels developed. Ramin Bahrani teases us with backstory for the world and the characters, but never gives us more. Montag’s past is shown to be altered by his eye drops, but how they work is never explained. Beatty let’s Montag know he has been allowed to read other books and shows a wide knowledge of literature, but that aspect of his life is left out as well. How society functions is skimmed over for the most part. The illegality of books seems to be confined to the U.S. with other nations allowing it. Most reading in America is confined to the Internet, called the “9,” with only digital books being allowed of which there are only three choices; the Bible, Moby Dick, and To the Lighthouse. Even then, certain words are replaced with pictographs. The “9” is operated by voice command and shows mostly pictures and Ministry sanctioned videos. It is stated that many books were banned so that every race, religion, gender, etc. would be pleased yet the Bible is the only religious book available. This inconsistency takes away from the believability of the film. Also the ending of the film feels forced as an elderly female “Eel” known as “The Grapes of Wrath” gives Salamander a clue as to what the “Eels” are planning instead of keeping her mouth shut. This comes across as lazy writing. Overall, the film feels like a season finale to a show where we never saw the other episodes. I give Fahrenheit 451 a Normal 5.5/10. The film had such great potential but ultimately falls short.

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