Verdict: 3 / 5
“The blacklist was a time of evil and that no one on either side who survived it came through untouched by evil,” Trumbo states in an acceptance speech looking upon the faces that either suffered with or enforced said injustice. Instead of playing the blame game, the writers of the film point out that perhaps everyone was a victim, be it from their ignorance or bravery to voice a different ideal.
The Hollywood 10 “red” label has received various versions on the silver screen before, addressing the then perceived ‘communist threat’ during the nineteenth century. With the Cold War on the rise, the House of Un-American Activities Committee sought out any individual who openly, or by association, was part of the Communist Party.
What better way to strike fear than to make an example of those in the spotlight? Screenwriters, actors, and directors rumored to be communist would receive slander in the headline articles by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), who deemed it her (profitable) duty to tell the public and Congress about those who poisons their great nation.
Among those names was Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), once one of the highest paid and celebrated screenwriters in the film industry. As fiercely as his fingers pound the letters on his typewriter, so too he would voice his opinion. Much to his own demise, that sharp tongue deemed him in contempt of Congress and jailed for eleven months. When daring to ask why (surely one has the right to know what one is being accused of?) he is silenced and blacklisted with nine others.
The film focuses more on an inspired look at the man Trumbo was, rather than the historical or political controversy of that time. The audience is given enough information to know what happened went wrong but remains focused on Trumbo. The supporting roles offer a network for Trumbo’s character to show growth but with little development within themselves. Be it the bat swinging B-rate picture producer Frank King (John Goodman), the strong-willed daughter Niki (Elle Fanning), supportive wife Cleo (Diane Lane) or industry big shots; actor Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gotman ) and director Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) along with the other nine blacklisted, show that they won’t be bullied by fearful ignorance, aiding in Trumbo’s triumph.
Trumbo offers an entertaining, summarized look at the struggle many still face regarding freedom of speech – with references to Hollywood classics like Spartacus, The Brave One, Roman Holiday, and others credited to a man who remained unapologetic about his convictions.