Saturday, March 26, 2016

Film Review: Trumbo (2015)

Copyright: Bleecker Street
This movie is more about Bryan Cranston than it is about Dalton Trumbo, which is not necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, it is definitely not about Communism in any shape or form, even though it should be at least a bit. Instead, it is about how the US when through a dark period by learning their lessons, which they obviously (like any other super-power in the world) did not do.

Like many big films about a dodgy period in the US history, it slithers away from the slippery ground which might not go so well outside of the relatively liberal costliness of the country.

Here, in the mostly blood-red interior of the US, I bet that calling someone a “communist” is still a hard-hitting insult but also a social system that armed Christian Caucasian still fear deep down inside. 

The fact that the actual fall of communism in its basic form failed to stifle these fears is a great example of how much they are embedded in the conservative mindset. Trumbo caters to this fear way too much, to a point where its depiction of a man becomes irrelevant. As the film unfolds and presents a story about a man who took on the system, lost and kept on fighting, we are left wondering how much was actually Trumbo into communism in the first place.

I’m certain that the movie makers would argue that the whole point of the plot is that this is a personal matter, but it still dissects Trumbo’s personal sides. We are shown his addictions, crumbling friendships and strained family relationships, so it is not a question of respecting his privacy. But, when it comes to his political views, they are left in the dark, even when his support for a global socialist cause is compared to others. Arlen Hird, who is played by Louis C.K., is represented as a person with more left-leaning views, but Trumbo remains a mystery.

Sure, he wants workers’ rights, less censorship and more freedom to fight for your paycheck, but all that remains in the domain of wishful thinking. The same would be if Cranston declared in the film as Trumbo that he wants “the people to live better”. This all might sound jaded on my part, but I feel this way because I’m certain that if the film declared that Trumbo really was a Communist, not just an almost accidental part of the Communist party at one point, a lot of the US audience wouldn’t emphasize with him. In fact, many would be more or less on the side of all the repressive elements of the film.

I believe this because I remember a single historical notion. As McCarthyism policy clearly stated, “the only good Communist is a dead Communist”. No matter how good or convincing Bryan Cranston, he still ends up as someone who is a great guy but definitely not a communist. Hell, in the end, how could a person be both of these things? That is why, in spite of his genuine message about censorship, it falls flat when it comes to its decency. Here, instead of presenting someone for whom he really was, the director Jay Roach and writer John McNamara appease the book-burners of the current world.