Now streaming–It’s an appropriate time to watch (and re-read) Fahrenheit 451

Review by C.J. Bunce

Now more than ever Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a reminder of how stupid people can be when they let their guard down, when they let the worst of us drown out the voices of the best of us.  When people who graduated at the bottom of their classes encourage book bans in schools and public libraries, fueled by ignorant parents urging them on, plus imbecile politicians trying to ban free speech, seemingly to do their best to turn American into a hateful, racist country with every breath, now is a great time to read the book again, and check out the powerful 2018 movie adaptation of Bradbury’s prophetic science fiction work that is as important today as when it was first published in 1953.

Director Ramin Bahrani carefully and cleverly updates Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for our times, deftly incorporating technological advances like the Internet, and social devolution like mindless up-voting and down-voting, and the growing trend of the once quiet and hiding ignorant types to infiltrate positions of power and torch society for their own ends.  Michael B. Jordan, in a big year where he also co-starred in Black Panther and starred in Creed II, took the lead role as fireman Guy Montag, a promising young man on the rise, groomed by populist leader Captain Beatty to become his replacement in a world where America’s leadership burns books because they just might be difficult and confusing to understand, thereby creating chaos in the minds of the feeble-minded.  Sound familiar?  Beatty is played by Michael Shannon in his most layered and vile villain role yet.  The film came out with Shannon at the top of his game, only a year after his Oscar-nominated performance in The Shape of Water.

Powerhouse actress Sofia Boutella delivers a compelling performance as Clarice McClellan, filmed within a few years span where Boutella delivered big movie performances in Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Atomic Blonde, Hotel Artemis, and The Mummy.  This role is unlike anything she’d done before, playing a key member of a resistance movement who was playing a double agent of sorts, tricking Beatty while building an underground railroad to get people and books out of the country.

Hope and promise are what push the movie forward.  Is Montag doomed just as his eyes are opened?  And what of this villain who clearly has read and memorized more books than even the resistance book saviors?  THX-1138, Total Recall, Minority Report, and more borrowed from Bradbury’s dark vision that, over time, continues to eclipse reality to this day.  Director Bahrani and co-screenwriter Amir Naderi use coded DNA in an intriguing way to flesh-out and wrap up their story–in a way to give viewers hope for our future.

Nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards, this is an HBO movie that feels more like a theatrical release, an adaptation that plays no games with the source material, delivering a gritty, compelling, clear and present danger for the world at every turn resulting from stupid leaders and a populus that gave up its critical thinking skills and handed their decision-making over to algorithms, TikTok and YouTube influencers, and social media platform banality.

The film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 was nicely timed to premiere just before the centenary of Ray Bradbury’s birth.  If you haven’t read Bradbury’s masterpiece, order it now here at Amazon.  Highly recommended, the 2018 HBO movie Fahrenheit 451 is now streaming on HBO Max.

Leave a Reply