Trumbo

by | Nov 5, 2015 | 0 comments

A Film That Exceeds Expectations in All its Facets

Americans have demonized communism to the point that even uttering the word would earn you a suspicious look. The political ideology has been stained and affiliated with the Soviet Union and more specifically with the dictator Joseph Stalin. In the 50s, America suffered from the “Red Scare” that involved an overarching conspiracy theory and paranoia of the communist soviets. There were some American communists, but these people weren’t Russian spies at all, in fact their greatest crime was simply confusing communism with Marxism. Trumbo deals with these innocent American communists and how they were shamed and abused by their own government.

Trumbo is the story of the great Hollywood screenwriter: Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). In the late 40s Trumbo and a group of his Hollywood peers were persecuted by fellow members of the industry – most notably actor John Wayne (David James Elliot) and critic Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to the point that they were brought to trial and jailed. The film then deals with Trumbo’s struggle to keep writing and feeding his family (made up of notable performances from Diane West as his wife Cleo and Elle Fanning as his daughter Niki). Trumbo was forced to write scripts and then give them to another writer to take credit instead, thus was the price of being on Hollywood’s “Blacklist.” Through this tactic, films such as Roman Holiday and The Brave One came about (notably also Trumbo’s two Oscar wins).

The film is filled with a cast of good actors such as John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Louis C.K. But the real show here is Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad); Cranston dons a hunched posture that makes us see the hours of work that Trumbo spends at his typewriter, he gives Trumbo a great wit and creativity that has you believing that he really has so many stories and words stuck inside his head. You almost want to pry into the character’s such complex, yet genius mind. The supporting cast was great given that they had very little time to shine, this was Cranston’s ship, but they were able to make themselves memorable. I was especially keen on watching Louis C.K. on his jump to a more dramatic and serious role than that on his TV show Louie, but I was a bit disappointed in that he was simply acting as his stand-up persona and not really exploring his assigned character. I was more pleased with Dean O’Gorman who plays Kirk Douglas (who gave Trumbo the screenwriting job on Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus), he was really able to capture the movie star vibe that existed back then, and he was also able to make his character not a caricature (like those we see of portrayed celebrities in Entourage or even The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon), but an actual person.

In terms of the screenplay itself, it’s hard to live up to the man whose story is being told, but I think that screenwriter John McNamara does a swell job in catching Trumbo and his fellow screenwriters’ deep and fast-thinking minds. The dialogue exchanges between almost every character was precious, I was only disappointed with Michael Stuhlbarg, who always paused the quick exchanges and took away from such a polished and intense screenplay.

In terms of the directing this was a hard movie to pull off. The director Jay Roach is more used to directing comedies (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers), but I think his previous experience in comedy was what made him so perfect for this film. Trumbo is very much a biographical film, and it goes to the point of telling decades upon decades of Trumbo’s life, and that can be a little too much for the audience to handle. However, Roach was able to add subtle flares of comedy so that the weight of his own story was relieved just enough to content the audience, but not so much as too lose the importance of his tale.

In the end this is another well-made biographical film, and these types of films have become ever so rare. More importantly however, this is a showcase of how Hollywood, and more importantly America, is finally accepting the concept and the poor supporters of communism. It is these kinds of movies that support and prompt change, which have made me fall in love with this industry. 

  • OVERALL MOVIE RATING 80% 80%

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What is your favorite Dalton Trumbo film? Let me know in the comments section.

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