Trumbo (2015) Movie Review: The Dark Ages of Hollywood

Filmmakers have always been a easy target for politicians across the globe. Be it Hitler or the democratic government of India, every regime in the modern world has used its effectiveness for its gain, by collaborating with or by attacking them for the evils in the society. Even Hollywood which considers itself as a bastion of freedom has bowed down to censorship under Hitler’s regime and now under China and even India. 

In the past decade, the call of patriotism has become stronger. The attitude of “you are either with us or with them” seems to be the order of the day.It is 1947, Hollywood is under threat from the evil of communism. The house of Un-American activities was holding hearings across Washington and LA. Trumbo narrates the tale of one of the most famous writers and a personality, who was blacklisted for his political ideologies.

At the heart of it, Trumbo is a brilliant story of a man who took on the world for his views, and ultimately triumphed over the blacklist and won two Oscars for his works.

Trumbo is not about communism versus capitalism, it is more about our freedom of expression and the freedom to dissent. In a democratic country who decides what we can speak or what political beliefs should we hold? Do our political masters decide what we should eat or what our students should think?

Trumbo is a relevant film in India, where students are being charged with sedition for being communist or leftist. And the chief of the CBFC goes on record and says that homosexuality is a subject which should not be seen by children.

TrumboLike most political films, Trumbo sets the personal story under the backdrop of a political issue and how the events are affecting the people involved in it.

While we get to know Trumbo, we hardly know anything about The Hollywood Ten. The film then takes a dramatic turn when Trumbo is sentenced to jail and we are treated with a subplot which does not serve any purpose in the bigger narrative.

Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of a quick witted and prolific writer is one of the highlights of the movie. He truly deserves an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Diane Lane plays Cleo – the supportive wife of Trumbo. In my opinion, despite having a limited role, she brings a certain kind of warmth and dignity to her character. Watch out for the scene when she confronts Trumbo about how he behaves with his family. John Goodman as Frank King is a hoot.

At the end of the day, this part bio, part historical film somehow does not realise its true potential. The film does not dwell into a complex narrative of how in the tumultuous period, friends turned into foes over ideological differences and it ends up focusing more on Trumbo and less on the injustice done by the state to it’s people. Nonetheless, it raises an important topic that is in today’s times, who decides what we should do or think.

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