Now I don’t have to read the book!
Synopsis: In a terrifying care-free future, a young man, Guy Montag, whose job as a fireman is to burn all books, questions his actions after meeting a young girl…and begins to rebel against society. (IMDB)
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, and Sofia Boutella
Writers: Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Running Time: 100mins
Airs: May 19th at 8pm on HBO Canada (Canada)/HBO (United States)
Hollywood has gone overboard with reboots over the last decade but a reboot of a 52 year old film based on the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is okay. Despite not having read the novel, those who have read it or seen the 1966 film will probably not be surprised by this new film for the most part. For those unaware, the film takes place in a dystopian society ruled by a new government called the ministry who have outlawed music, art, movies, or books in an attempt to control the masses, creating the illusion of happiness. Any remaining books, physical or digital, were burned by firemen.
The film threw us right into the story, following a young fireman named Montag (Jordan) and his team captain named Beatty (Shannon). In this society, firemen were celebrities with their own fans cheering them on as they did all their burning live on a ministry-controlled network called the 9. Sides were clearly drawn as there were those who conformed and the one who didn’t were called eels. They rebelled against the ministry by preserving the knowledge they fought hard to repress. Montag was indoctrinated from a young age and the fireman life was the only life he knew thanks to the tutelage of Beatty. The lack of a backstory for Montag affected the film later on as it took away the emotional impact of his inevitable reversal. From there, he became a passenger in his own story.
Montag began to question the only life he knew after meeting an eel and one of Beatty’s informants, a woman named Clarisse (Boutella). She challenged his beliefs and over time, he would become more and more disillusioned while striking a working relationship (and thankfully not a romantic one) with Clarisse and her fellow eels. However, escaping Montag’s former life would prove to be difficult, especially when it came to Beatty. Beatty was somewhat menacing but he felt more like a counterpoint than an actual character.
The film world was very dark and cinematic in feel, matching the story and subject matter and the production values were impressive as a whole considering its a TV movie and was shot in Hamilton, Ontario. The few action sequences were exciting to watch but there could have been more since the film chose to focus on Montag’s internal conflict. Clarisse had a conflict of her own between Montag and Beatty, however, her conflict didn’t matter all that much since she was more of a plot device than an actual character. Despite the predictable story and the paper thin characters, the film was still somewhat compelling to watch.
The best part of the film was the performances from Jordan and Shannon as Montag and Beatty. They took their paper thin characters and managed to breathe some life into them. Jordan is already immensely likable which made it easy to buy into Montag’s internal conflict but the writing made it difficult to connect with him on a deeper level. Shannon, like he has done many times before, was a menacing and charming presence as Beatty, saving a character that could easily have been a caricature.
Overall, this was a decent sci-film that adds nothing new to the conversation by beating us over the head with an obvious message that doesn’t quite work as well today. Despite its paper thin characters, it was still somewhat compelling to watch thanks to great production values and performances from Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon.