I had the opportunity recently to go to an advanced screening of Trumbo, a new movie starring Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter who was blacklisted for being a part of the communist party. Trumbo tells a great story about a time in American history when people were punished for thinking a certain way, and it does a great job in explaining why Dalton Trumbo and other members of the infamous Hollywood Ten were wronged.
The film opens with an explanation of the time period. As fascism was becoming more and more popular in Europe, there were a number of Americans who decided to join the communist party. After WWII ended and the Cold War began, communism was thought of as a huge threat to American democracy, and because of this many people were discriminated against for their political beliefs.
From the beginning, the characters in Trumbo stress how important it is to rid Hollywood of communists. They stated that filmmakers and screenwriters were at the forefront of propaganda, and that films were such an easy way to spread it. I thought this brought up an interesting point, and it was not a coincidence on Trumbo’s behalf that a majority of the in-movie films were all about how these communists, or as the film called them, “those people” were evil, and out to attack American democracy. The people who warned against the communist propaganda put out a lot of propaganda themselves.
This is where Dalton Trumbo and his colleagues become super important in terms of the United States constitution. One of the greatest themes in this film is the importance of the first amendment. Because communism was such a horrifying thing at the time, those who identified as communists were thought of as traitors. This is why the blacklist ruined the careers of so many because no self-respecting American wanted to support a traitor’s movie.
The first amendment protects the right to free speech, and within that right, political beliefs. Despite this right, people like Dalton Trumbo were called to stand trial and defend themselves for their beliefs. It seems like it is almost impossible to defend yourself based on an inherent constitutional right when that right is being infringed upon. The main message of the film was meant to say that even if communism was thought to be a threat, taking away someone’s constitutional rights are a bigger threat to American democracy than communism or any other political system.
Overall, Trumbo is an engaging film with a great story to tell. Bryan Cranston is able to step into his character and deliver an amazing performance. It is definitely worth seeing in theatres, and I am so grateful I was able to see it.