Trumbo: Film Review

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I did not think Trumbo would be up my street because it seemed quite dry and very political. I didn’t particularly care for a story about Hollywood’s treatment of communists, so I was very surprised to find that Trumbo was both entertaining, hilarious and informative.

Bryan Cranston plays real-life Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who is treated with contempt for being a member of the Communist Party in 1947 by anti-Soviet industry figures including columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren). He is forced to testify about his political beliefs in the Supreme Court, but when he refuses to answer questions he eventually ends up in jail. After doing prison time, he finds himself on the blacklist and unable to find work along with other Communists, so he begins writing scripts for a low budget studio headed up by John Goodman under a pseudonym.

I didn’t know who Dalton Trumbo was, or his work, or anything about the Hollywood blacklist so I did not expect to enjoy this as much as more in-the-know people. But I really liked it. I love films about films anyway so the parts when he is writing a script of a big movie – Roman Holiday, Spartacus – are really entertaining.

It’s amazing how light-hearted it can be when it is actually about a really sad subject. Thousands of Americans were put out of work because of their political beliefs and in Trumbo you really see how his unemployment and secretive re-employment affects his whole family, including wife Cleo (Diane Lane) and daughter Nikola (Elle Fanning). He is working all day and night churning out scripts and forcing his kids to be his couriers without realising how is treating his family like employees.

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Cranston’s performance is brilliant – when is it not? He deserves a nomination but I don’t think he will get it. It is a very subtle performance – there is no one big scene or emotional breakdown that will wow the voters, but it is still great work all the same. I cannot comment on his similarities to Trumbo because I honestly know nothing about the real guy.

This also has a great supporting cast – Lane and Fanning are very moving, Goodman is brash, bold and hilarious but you also have Louis C.K. and Michael Stuhlbarg (who I never knew before Steve Jobs) as other members of the blacklist affected by unemployment. I would have loved to have seen more of Mirren – she was fabulous as the gossip queen.

From the promotion and plot summary, this does not seem like a riot and it sounds like an intense story but I want readers to know that it is not. It is so interesting and while the subject matter is sad, it is told in non-depressing way. Sure, there are moments of sadness but there are so many unexpected moments of joy. I laughed so much at this. That takes a talented writer and director to get the balance just right. Brilliant film.

In cinemas Friday 5th February 

Trackbacks

  1. […] Bryan Cranston has scored an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who is sent to jail and is later blacklisted by the industry for his ties with the Communist Party. This sounds heavy and dense but it was actually incredibly entertaining, funny and gripping. In cinemas now – here’s my review.  […]

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