Bryan Cranston is Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter jailed for being a member of the Communist Party of America.

Bryan Cranston is Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter jailed for being a member of the Communist Party of America.

Reel Reviews: Trumbo tells of another dark chapter in U.S. history

Film about blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo stars Oscar nominated actor Bryan Cranston.

Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was one of the highest paid and most talented screenwriters in Hollywood.

In 1947, he and several other artists were blacklisted and jailed for being members of the Communist Party despite it being legal to have any political affiliation.

Trumbo used his skills under a pseudonym to expose the absurd and unjust charges forced upon him by the House of Un-American Activities Committee to win two Academy Awards he couldn’t claim.

We say, “Only in America…”

TAYLOR: Here we have yet another film about how Americans can get caught up in a paranoia that ruins peoples lives based solely on their need to have an enemy, real or imaginary.

The Russians, if I may generalize as readily, were friends at the end of the Second World War. Communism only became a threat when it was discovered they wanted the same things America did: wealth, power and advanced weaponry, yet chose to achieve these things by way of socialism rather than capitalism. So began the Cold War and almost immediately patriotic yokels decided that the rights provided by their own constitution should be overlooked in the name of protecting America from the evils of communism, something that had no effect on their lives.

HOWE: It is tough sometimes to write a review for a movie based on history, if you don’t know the full ins and outs of it, as in the case of Trumbo. A couple of years ago, we reviewed a movie on Maggie Thatcher. Growing up under her reign, I was able to relate to it. This, on the other hand, was completely alien to me, but I did enjoy the film and the performances. It kept me entertained for the two-plus hours.

I was also a little shocked that the U.S. film guild was able to pull off such a stunt as blacklisting Trumbo and his gang, even to the extent of getting them locked up. Although the performances by the large ensemble cast were very good, David James Elliot and Dean O’Gorman didn’t look much like The Duke or Kirk Douglas.

TAYLOR: I can’t help but notice the parallels in Trumbo with today’s widespread fear of all things Muslim within the similar zeitgeist of the so-called War on Terror. Also, Trumbo reflects how the rights of citizens become secondary to promoting that fear.

HOWE: Wait, are you going to talk about the movie?

TAYLOR: I thought I was, but it turns out the movie has an amazing cast telling a powerful, maddening story. If someone reading these words goes to see Trumbo for what it is, an exposé of the historic manipulation of fear in America, perhaps that person will also see how it continues today. This is Dalton Trumbo’s legacy.

– Taylor gives Trumbo 5 bathtub typewriters out of 5.

– Howe gives it 4 script rewrites out of 5.

Reel Reviews with Brian Taylor and Peter Howe appears in The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.

Vernon Morning Star