- 1 hr 36 min
Trumbo is a compelling 2007 documentary film that sheds light on the life of one of Hollywood's most gifted and controversial figures, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Directed by Peter Askin, the film dives deep into the complex story of a man who stood at the stormy intersection of art, politics, and liberty during one of the most turbulent periods in American history.
Dalton Trumbo was a titan of the Golden Age of Hollywood, known for his sharp wit, prolific writing, and unapologetic political convictions. He rose to become one of the highest-paid writers in Hollywood with critically acclaimed movies to his name. However, his career came to an abrupt halt in the late 1940s when he, along with nine other screenwriters and directors, known as the "Hollywood Ten," fell victim to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)'s investigations into communist influence in the motion picture industry.
The documentary details the era of the notorious Hollywood blacklist, a grim period when entertainers were barred from work in the studios, publicly shamed, and even imprisoned for their beliefs or associations. Trumbo, an outspoken and unabashed member of the Communist Party, refused to testify about his political affiliations before HUAC, which led to his imprisonment for contempt of Congress and to his subsequent blacklisting from Hollywood.
Using a blend of interviews, archival footage, and dramatic readings, Trumbo paints a personal and political portrait of Dalton Trumbo, the man who struggled to uphold his convictions amid widespread paranoia and fear. As the title character, Trumbo is portrayed through a mix of his own writing, personal letters, and unconventional scripts, with performances of these pieces given by a range of actors, including Joan Allen, Brian Dennehy, and others who pay homage to the writer's powerful words.
The film delves into Trumbo's hardships during the blacklist era and how it affected his family, career, and his standing within the community. Despite being ostracized by many powerful entities in Hollywood and beyond, Trumbo demonstrated remarkable resilience and ingenuity in circumventing the blacklist by writing under pseudonyms or using "fronts"—writers who would submit his work under their names. Even in the face of adversity, he succeeded in producing Academy Award-winning work, which is a testament to his extraordinary talent and determination.
Trumbo is not only a study of a brilliant screenwriter but also an examination of the dark side of American politics and the cost of freedom of expression. The documentary explores how the blacklist not only destroyed careers but also lives, as many talented artists were put under unreasonable scrutiny and forced to make unbearable sacrifices. The story told in Trumbo is one of hope and endurance, reminding audiences of the power of standing firm in one's beliefs.
The film also offers a retrospective look at the legacy of Dalton Trumbo and how his fight against the blacklist helped to slowly erode this oppressive system and restore the reputations and careers of those who were unjustly persecuted. It celebrates his eventual recognition by the Writers Guild and the Academy, which, decades later, acknowledged the injustice that was done to him and other blacklisted artists.
Containing interviews with Trumbo's family, friends, and contemporaries, the film traces the intimate stories of the Trumbo household during and after the blacklist. His children, including his son, Christopher Trumbo, provide poignant insights into their father's struggle, combining the public persona of a blacklisted writer with the private experiences of a family man.
Trumbo serves not only as a biography of a man but also as an important historical document. The film touches on themes still relevant today, such as civil rights, the freedom of speech, and the consequences of political fear-mongering. It draws connections between the past and the future, invoking the viewer to consider the impact that fear can have on society and the importance of artistic freedom.
Ultimately, Trumbo is a moving tribute to a man whose voice could not be silenced. It is a vibrant and multifaceted documentary that captures the spirit of an artist who used the power of words to battle against oppression and injustice. Through its exploration of Dalton Trumbo's life and legacy, the film stands as a reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the enduring fight for freedom of thought in America.
Trumbo is a 2007 documentary with a runtime of 1 hour and 36 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.4 and a MetaScore of 71.