He’s a worthy adversary for Michael B. Jordan, who plays Guy Montag. As the wheel upon which the film turns, Jordan burns bright, managing to play a slow descent into doubt and revelation without seeming to moralize, but the film’s script ultimately underserves him. The ending is too plain for a movie that is otherwise so vivid (metaphorically and literally -- the words "stay vivid" are plastered on almost every screen to remind civilians to be vigilant), and the way it’s been changed from the original text feels like a cop-out rather than a thoughtful addition.
It doesn’t help that the visual style changes drastically as the film enters its last act, a shift that is as clumsily made as some of the film’s broader points. While the firemen brutalize their victims, it’s difficult not to consider the connotations of casting Michael B. Jordan as one of them. It becomes clear that this was a conscious decision when he comes across the last remaining free thinkers, with mixed results. If there’s to be a commentary on race, it can’t be so skin-deep; when characters are assigned books, the choices are so obvious it's almost exasperating. The one Asian woman in the cast is Chairman Mao; the black man is James Baldwin.
Still, there are so many striking details in Fahrenheit 451 (including 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Keir Dullea in a role that perfectly utilizes his still-otherworldly voice and features) that it’s difficult to begrudge it. The first two acts are stunning, like a shared nightmare we’ve just been lucky enough to witness.