This fascinatingly tragic film tells the true story of the Hollywood Blacklist and how it unfairly and unconstitutionally targeted people and ruined lives. In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), one of Hollywoods top writers and a Communist, was blacklisted and jailed. In spite of this, he managed to work secretly and under assumed names, winning two Oscars for his scripts.
But it wasn’t easy, and the cost to the lives of his family and friends, and never being able to accept the awards that were rightfully his are a painful watch. The film is ultimately triumphant, as decades later the black list is finally lifted, but the lives destroyed and the price paid is very high.
The film manages to convey a great deal about Hollywood and the social currents of the time. The way that America feared Communism as though it was a disease, somehow catching, rather than a political belief. The fear, the paranoia. But also, the way that Hollywood was then run, the studio system and the way certain gossip columnists could make or break careers. Although Trumbo himself is the centre of the story, is talks about so much more than just one mans story. But by focusing on this one person, and his family, his drive to keep going, it shows us how the cracks can form, how a family can pull together, and how it can be driven apart.
It’s a very good story in that sense, because Trumbo himself is eccentric, not always likable, very human, but ultimately enduring. It sheds light on events that are often forgotten, and makes you wonder what else was lost when the blacklist took lives and careers away.