“Trumbo” — A Menace Is Banished & Returns
Here are several reasons you should drop everything but the baby or a dozen cage free eggs & run to see “Trumbo” ASAP.
First, some cinematic reasons: Acting, for one.
Bryan Cranston is brilliant as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (tho he is helped by the fact that the real Trumbo was a nonstop-memorable-line-producing machine). Helen Mirren is villainously perfect as Hedda Hopper; Elle Fanning is fab as Trumbo’s teenage daughter. And OMFG– somebody grab the baseball bat away from John Goodman, or this thing turns into a splatter flick in 60 more seconds.
Which indicates that the script is brisk and exciting, even tho we kind of know how it turns out (Trumbo & others are blacklisted by HUAC; they endure persecution, prison & penury; but ultimately the Hollywood blacklist is busted by — wait a minute, Kirk Douglas?? And a bald Kojak lookalike in a Rolls Royce, who doesn’t even like Christmas??)
And here’s the big non-cinematic reason to see it and tell everyone: the Hollywood blacklist may now be history, or even, as it is between the lines here, low farce. But the kind of threat to free expression and public intelligence it spawned has not gone away.
Oh no; it’s back today, only more widespread and more serious.
A couple weeks ago, I spent some time with one of its current victims: CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. He served two years in prison for telling the truth about The Agency’s torture program.
Besides time in the slammer, Kiriakou was left with an $880,000 legal bill, which he’ll likely be paying off til the day he dies.
And then there’s Snowden and Assange in exile, Jeffrey Sterling set up and jailed for exposing racism and worse in the CIA, Chelsea Manning behind bars for decades — and let me never forget the brilliant young Aaron Swartz, driven to suicide by the Feds for the “crime” of fighting for open access to online knowledge.
And while it is gall and wormwood to say this, today they and so many others face an adversary more devious, more relentless and more punitive than HUAC‘s J. Parnell Thomas, rolled into Joe McCarthy and wrapped up in J. Edgar Hoover, in the person of — the fingers hurt to type it, but it’s the truth–Barack Obama.
“Trumbo” avoids the temptation to make any cheap parallels to our current plight; but they are implicit throughout.
If we’d learned anything from the Blacklist, “Trumbo” would be no more than a well-done period piece. But instead, it’s a compelling tract for the times. And if we don’t get the point now, it could end up being of timeless value.
Until they get around to banning it.