By: Norain F.
Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther,” “Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”) and Michael Shannon (HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, Oscar®nominee for “Nocturnal Animals” and “Revolutionary Road”, Golden Globe nominee for “99 Homes”) will star in HBO Films’ FAHRENHEIT 451. Directed by Ramin Bahrani (“99 Homes”) from a screenplay by Ramin Bahrani & Amir Naderi (“Vegas: Based on a True Story”), this drama is based on Ray Bradbury’s classic novel of the same name, portraying an alternate tomorrow in which media is an opiate, facts and history are rewritten, and “firemen” burn books. FAHRENHEIT 451 will premiere on HBO (Astro Ch 411/ HD 431), the same time as the U.S. on Sunday, May 20 at 8am, with a same day primetime encore at 9pm. The film will also be available on HBO On Demand (via Astro GO).
Jordan portrays Montag, a young fireman who starts to question his beliefs and turns against his friend and mentor, Captain Beatty, played by Shannon. Sofia Boutella (“The Mummy”, “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) stars as Clarisse, an informant who becomes newly politicized through her interactions with Montag.
Lilly Singh, (also known as IISuperwomanII on YouTube) stars as social media vlogger who works with the fire department to spread the Ministry’s propaganda by broadcasting its fire-shows to fans; Toni Morrison, leader of the underground effort to memorize and preserve books and knowledge is played by Khandi Alexander (HBO’s “Treme”; Emmy® nominee for “Scandal”); Martin Donovan (“Inherent Vice,” “The Portrait of a Lady”) as Commissioner Nyari, Beatty’s superior; and Dylan Taylor (“Covert Affairs,” “Reasonable Doubt”) as Fireman Douglas, Montag’s rival firefighter.
“I have always loved Ray Bradbury’s prophetic novel ‘Fahrenheit 451’,” says Bahrani. “The concept is so provocative. Three years ago, I started to think about it again, because the world was frighteningly catching up to what he had envisioned. Bradbury said that we demanded, we elected, for the world to become this way. That’s different than having a totalitarian government take over. I found that to be true, because we have willingly given up our knowledge, identity, books, history, dreams, culture – everything – to tech companies, big business and politicians.”
FAHRENHEIT 451 is a story revolving Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan), a fireman in his district, with a job to achieve happiness and social harmony by burning books, physical or electronic, art, photos and facts, deleting and altering history and replacing words with simplistic emojis. “Natives,” or citizens, mainly stay home, happily interacting with screens and getting anything they need from “Yuxie,” an advanced AI personal assistant that listens to and watches them at all times. “Eels”, the book-reading outcasts, fight to save books, knowledge and culture. When Eels are captured by the firemen, they’re burned in public burnings, which are broadcasted to the city on giant building-screens. Digital identities and histories of the Eels are erased and they are banished to Talay City, a poor slum with very little technology.
Montag’s mentor and friend, Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) is the head of the regional fireman brigade. He is grooming Montag to take his place, but Beatty also has a secret: an inclination for knowledge and books, which exactly what he trains Montag to burn. Beatty manages to survive within the Ministry by riding a fine line of contradiction. He finds himself increasingly losing control of Montag, his prized student, who is haunted by dreams and increasingly questioning his beliefs. After interacting with Clarisse (Sofia Boutella), an Eel-turned-informant, Montag is drawn to forbidden knowledge. The turning point comes when an old woman burns herself alive, in front of Montag, for her books. Now, Montag must find out why.
His first step: steal a book. Next: find Clarisse to explain it to him.
Through Clarisse, Montag connects with rebel Eels, who are preserving books by memorizing one author’s work and “becoming” that novel. They have developed OMNIS, a way to store all of humanity’s art, history and literature in a microscopic strand of DNA – an advanced form of a technology that exists today. To protect OMNIS, The Eels need Montag to utilise his status as a fireman.
Beatty become suspicious and realizes that Montag has aligned himself with Clarisse, betraying him and the Ministry. Beatty confronts Montag, which results in fiery standoffs in which Beatty tries to bring his apprentice and only friend back into the fold. However, Montag can’t be saved. His one goal is to save OMNIS. Mentor and apprentice will have to face the unavoidable tragedy that neither friend wants: One of them will have to be destroyed.
Michael Shannon notes, “This is a good time for FAHRENHEIT 451 to come out, because it seems like we are drifting away from pure information as a society. Everything now is more oriented to opinion and propaganda, and the technology that’s available is allowing us to create a dangerous non-reality. For my character Beatty, it’s not even important whether something is a lie or the truth. That’s an antiquated notion, and that’s something we’re seeing in our culture today. But my own personal mantra is ‘pay attention’ – we think we’re getting all the information and facts, but often you can’t rely on the validity of what you’re reading or seeing these days.”
“He’s the golden boy, you know? And with that type of pressure on him, there’s also a pressure to continue down that path – not to go back, not to turn left, not to make any mistakes. I think the message of the film and the book is very important today, when our freedom of choice and freedom of speech – our rights as human beings – are being tested. Don’t always do what you’re told. Do what you feel is right. That’s something my character Montag learns as he starts to question what the Ministry taught him and slowly but surely begins to think for himself. Know that you have freedom of choice. Don’t rely on someone else to tell you what is true or what your reality is.” Michael B. Jordan says of his character,
The film was shot on location in Toronto. The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Kramer Morgenthau, ASC (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”); costume designer Meghan Kasperlik (“99 Homes”); editor Alex Hall (HBO’s “True Detective”); production designer Mark Digby (“Ex Machina”); composers Matteo Zingales & Antony Partos (“99 Homes”); and re-recording mixer Tom Fleischman (Oscar® winner for “Hugo”).
FAHRENHEIT 451 is an HBO Films presentation of a Brace Cove, Noruz Films and Outlier Society production; executive producers, Sarah Green (Oscar®nominee for “Tree of Life”), Ramin Bahrani, Michael B. Jordan, Alan Gasmer (“Vikings”) and Peter Jaysen (“Jekyll”).
FAHRENHEIT 451 will be premiering on HBO (Astro Ch 411 / HD 431), the same time as the U.S. on Sunday, May 20 at 8am, with a same day primetime encore at 9pm. The film will also be available on HBO On Demand (via Astro GO).