HBO’s latest feature, a very modern interpretation of Ray Bradbury’s seminal novel Fahrenheit 451, almost cleared the hurdle of looking and feeling like a film that wasn’t made for television. The picture is headlined by Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon and has a production value that is comparable to HBO’s current programming; very much akin to Westworld and Game of Thrones.
The film is very contemporary, smothering itself in social networking and rooting itself in media propelled celebrities, even striking some fundamentals of the Trump campaign. The cult of personality is literally projected on the sides of skyscrapers as for everyone to be able to watch the fireman burn books and delete people’s identities who break the law.
Where the film struggles is that it begins to flatline slightly towards the second act. It beings to lose steam when building up the internal struggle of the main character Montag, played by Jordan. Jordan is good as Montag, and in the final moments is rather great. Michael Shannon, playing Jordan’s mentor steals every scene he is in which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who is remotely familiar with his work.
Michael Shannon is one of those actors who found his niche, stayed within his typecast and each time he is on the screen he gives such a marvelous and engrossing performance, it is impossible not to admire his talent as an actor. Shannon dives deep in his character in the film, he’s not the sadistic alpha male that he’s been so familiar with, he brings a sensibility and sympathy to the role. Filmmaker Ramin Bahrani who had previously worked with Shannon in 99 Homes, certainly does bring a fresh and nuanced take on the classic novel, but there is a certain amount of lifelessness to it. It doesn’t quite feel as authentic or genuine as it tries to come off. The novel has a lot to say, and while the film does a fine job of capturing the spirit of the source material, it doesn’t quite get the message across.
Review by Frank Mengarelli