FILM REVIEW | TRUMBO
By Brett Hutton
When I first learnt about the effects of the Cold War in Hollywood, particularly the Red Scare perpetuated by the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Hollywood Blacklist and the Hollywood Ten, I thought someone should make a movie about it. I especially wanted to see a biopic on arguably the most important member of the Hollywood Ten, Dalton Trumbo. The man lived an interesting life full of persecution and hardship in the pursuit of civil liberty, fuelled by a love of his craft. Well, a good decade or so later, it happened.
Trumbo takes place at the cusp of the HUAC’s founding and its communist witch-hunt over Hollywood in 1947. The HUAC took advantage of paranoid jingoistic testimonies and allegations without proof or backed by law to blacklist hundreds of people, and effectively destroyed lives. Dalton Trumbo and nine other screenwriters defied the HUAC and plead the First Amendment. Every one of them was found guilty of contempt in court and thrown in prison.
The bulk of the film follows in the aftermath of Trumbo’s blacklisting: his struggle to remain true to his beliefs and his art; the hardship his family had to endure; the secrecies, the backstabbing and the political discourse; and living a life when your own name, your watermark on the world, could effectively get you killed. It’s rather harrowing to think that such political nonsense, fuelled by paranoia and treating a different economic structure like a disease, could lead to something like this today, and most certainly should not be forgotten.
The film’s a talkie, but fortunately the dialogue is engaging and the performances are solid across the board. The biggest gripe I have with the film is its lack of ambition with the camera. Every shot is basic, serviceable and static, and never uses the frame to emphasise elements visually, which is honestly kind of sinful as film is a visual medium after all.
Regardless, the film is engaging and open. It has enough drama to be engrossing and enough historical context to make you think of how things were in the past, especially as the consequences are eerily similar to the paranoia that enraptures our world today.
Brett Hutton is a strange little man with a penchant for black clothing and metallic jewellery covered in skulls and images of the Occult. He watches and critiques films deep within his pressurised vault, and survives on a diet of pizza, fried rice and ice coffee.