2.5 out of 5 stars
Dalton Trumbo is not a name that most people would be familiar with outside of cinematic circles. He was an Academy-Award winning writer and in the late 1940’s, he was one of the highest paid screenwriters in Hollywood. He was a writer during the post-World War II era when the enemy was Russia along with the ideology of Communism. This was the beginning of the Cold War and the fears of Americans led people to turn on one another in the attempt to ferret out the enemy within the nation. Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) and other artists in Hollywood found themselves on the side of this political battle that inevitably placed them on a blacklist in Hollywood, which eventually led these men to being jailed for their views. Trumbo is a docudrama that shows the trials and tribulations that these artists experienced throughout the later 40’s and 50’s. This biographical sketch shows both sides of the political landscape and the conservative lines that were drawn in Hollywood and the United States.
The underlying message of Trumbo exposes how beliefs are a difficult thing to regulate and how easily society can portray personal convictions as dangerous. Also, when these fears are allowed to fester within a culture, they can lead to an anxiety that may or may not be considered reasonable. Director Jay Roach’s film looks back on this part of history and lays bare the ludicrous nature of this suspicion, but attempts to show the sincerity behind both sides of the political argument. The film does not require that the viewer agree with the political views of the individuals portrayed, but does provide a warning against history repeating itself through this fascinating story.
Even though it does skirt along the edge of self-righteous Hollywood propaganda by seeming to show one side as more favourable, this biographical sketch is a compelling example of the past that is worth engaging with. Roach delivers a fascinating part of history that has interesting similarities to the current political atmosphere in western culture. Trumbo's story has different players in amongst the same issues of fear and governments trying to figure out how to regulate beliefs within a culture. Trumbo is part of the past that is worth understanding to encourage people from repeating the same mistakes.
Since this was originally a stage play, the storytelling can have the feel of a stage production and most of the figures come off as larger than life. The acting seems to move within the realm of caricature opposed to reality, but it is still quite captivating. Bryan Cranston does manage to convey the persona of Dalton Trumbo well and he is surrounded by top shelf talent, like Helen Mirren, Diane Lane and John Goodman. With the central character being a screenwriter, the irony is that the primary weakness of Trumbo is the script. Even with all of the acting talent, the dialogue feels like it is written in the same bygone era of Dalton Trumbo's Hollywood. This dated style of dialogue and delivery cause the overall experience to be surreal at times and less than believable. After awhile Trumbo plays like a good television biography that happens to include foul language, but it is a fascinating historical account that merely suffers in the delivery.
REEL DIALOGUE: How far are people willing to go for their beliefs?
Even without agreeing with the political views of Dalton Trumbo, it is hard not to appreciate the conviction of belief of this man. Being willing to sacrifice financial gain, persecution of family and accepting time in prison for their conviction should cause anyone to pause and think. For Christians this standard is set by the leader of this belief system in stating “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Are you willing to risk it all for your beliefs and if not, what is the limit to your convictions.
1. What does the Bible say about politics? (Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Romans 13:1-7)
2. Can we ever find true justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
3. Is it okay to stand up for your beliefs? (Proverbs 25: 26, Ephesians 6: 10-17)