fahreNheiT 451 (Ramin Bahrani) updates Ray Bradbury’s dystopian masterwork for the age of proud ignorance, fake news and social-media bubbles, and for a while it’s a pretty good fit – certainly, its concept of a totalitarian near-future America intent on suppressing all revolutionary thought through the destruction of physical media makes a lot of sense right now. Bahrani’s adaptation, cowritten with Amir Naderi, takes a number of liberties with Bradbury’s book, some of which work better than others – and whenever a more wobbly notion comes along, Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon do a hell of a job selling it. The core story is still that of “fireman” Guy Montag (Jordan), who goes from jack-booted government book-burner to member of the resistance after he discovers the power of the written word. (In this version, it’s Dostoevsky’s Notes From The Underground.) As Montag’s commanding officer, Shannon is saddled with most of the exposition and a lot of fearsome pronouncements, but he adds a level of ambiguity to his character that makes everything he does that much more interesting. But the longer the movie goes on, the more time we have to notice how small it feels, limited by both the budget and the scope of its imagination. Bahrani’s never been great with endings, and he trades the novel’s Pyrrhic victory for a smaller, more personal triumph that doesn’t fully land. Premiering on HBO Canada and streaming on HBO GO Saturday (May 19) at 8 pm. 101 min. NNN (Norman Wilner)
Michael B. Jordan gets fired up in Fahrenheit 451.