Fahrenheit 451 review: The dystopian sci-fi feature explodes onto the big-screen in Cannes ahead of its small-screen debut on HBO later this month.
Fahrenheit 451 review by Paul Heath.
Fahrenheit 451, an odd addition to the festival line-up this year, is a futuristic adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s seminal 1953 book and boasts Black Panther and Creed actor Michael B. Jordan in the lead (he also executive produces), as well as a re-teaming of 99 Homes actor and director duo Michael Shannon and Rahim Bahrani.
In the not-too-distant-dystopian future, we find firemen Captain Beatty (Shannon) and Guy Montag (Jordan), his right-hand-man and worthy successor. These two are just part of a fire service that don’t put out fires, but create them, their prime objective to seek and destroy all remaining books. Their efforts are constantly showcased on live feeds, mostly on this thing known as ‘the 9’, which we discover was once referred to as the internet – a fancy, fully interactive platform where people can view, post and comment constantly to their heart’s content.
Montag is about to leap forward for a promotion into Beatty’s position as he climbs the career ladder to major, but the young serviceman hits a bump in the road after starting to question some of the motives behind the exterminations of the written text and, after meeting the so-called Eel (short for ‘illegals’) Clarisse (Sofia Boutella), switches allegiances to put an end to the relentless literary carnage.
Clearly a project to relate to today’s world rather than one that exists in the future, or indeed 65 years ago when the novel was first published, Bahrani’s film is an okay watch, but one which is clearly suited to a sofa-slouching television crowd rather than art-house loving cinephiles attending the world’s most prestigious film festival.
This is all distinctly average stuff, the script, while sometimes inventive in terms of refocusing the action to a dystopian Cleveland, does suffer from clichéd and corny tough guy lines early on – ‘You kill me a dream, you better wake up and apologise,’ utters Jordan before he takes out another Eel in the opening reel. Shannon (above) does better with the material, the solid character actor relishing another bad-guy role and nailing his role with relative ease.
Given the source material and its potential for stretching proceedings over say a mini-series special on the cabler – not forgetting this is the very network for some of the finest television of recent times – it’s difficult to see why they opted for a straight two-hour event movie, a rarity for HBO (though Behind The Candelabra still remains a fave from a few years back). Everything seems quite shallow and not explored to its full potential, and while it all looks very nice in terms of its imagery, there’s no real depth to any of the characters. The fact that we were left looking down at our watches halfway through the third act willing it all just to end tells you a lot of what’s on offer – a bit of a disappointing adaptation of one of the finest novels of the 20th century.
Fahrenheit 451 review by Paul Heath, May 2018.
Fahrenheit 451 review will screen on HBO in North America on 19th May 2018. It was reviewed at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.