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| 27 February 2016 | Reply

Directed by Jay Roach
Starring Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Trumbo movie poster

Meet Dalton Trumbo, played by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston. He’s an Academy Award nominated screenwriter, the highest paid of his profession, living comfortably in a big house with a loving family, and he just happens to believe in a better, kinder world so joined the Communist Party during World War II in support of their ideals of fairer distribution of wealth.

The Cold War years in America were a scary time for freedom: In its name the government imposed huge swathes of censorship and restrictions, and Trumbo and Co are labelled “dangerous radicals” and jailed.

This actually happened to thousands of citizens, and not just from Hollywood. Teachers, journalists and many more lost their jobs, income, careers, families, and sometimes their lives – all to satisfy the hypocritical paranoia, fear mongering and political manipulation at the heart of the ‘American Dream’.

Trumbo the movie uses the real life injustices that happened to Dalton Trumbo to highlight the plight of so many people treated with such unfair contempt, all for having the gall to believe people could actually be better to each other.

After being released from jail Trumbo and his friends are still blacklisted in Hollywood: they are not allowed to write for TV or movies. But, since writing is all they know, write they do, submitting script after script under made-up names.

Cranston is brilliant in the role, eking out every drop of emotion and stoic resilience as Trumbo balances his indignation, career drive, and protectiveness of his beloved family. He’s a man – he doesn’t always get the balance right, especially during a short period of over-indulging in amphetamines to keep up with his workload, but he always tries, and Diane Lane is superb as his long-suffering, usually-supportive, and ready to step in and correct the problems wife.

Helen Mirren leads an excellent support cast as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, chief amongst those trying to bring Trumbo and Co down. Special mention should also go to great performances from Michael Stuhlbarg and David James Elliot as actors Edward G Robinson and John Wayne, John Goodman as B-movie maker Frank King, Alan Tudyk and Louis CK as Trumbo’s friends Ian McLellan Hunter and Arlen Hird.

With the help of daughter Niki – played as a teenager by Elle Fanning – Trumbo eventually finds that the only way to fight the insidious paranoia and bullying that almost destroyed his career and life was to defeat it from within the system, and his talent and artistry works slowly to persuade others to stand up to the system, others who can make a difference and make things better for everyone. That in itself is a very communist principle.

Trumbo seamlessly blends archive footage from the House UnAmerican Activities Committee meetings with modern footage and audio, giving the film a wonderfully unique and antique feel to it. It’s also worth staying through the closing credits for a myriad of actual photos from the Trumbo family collection, and footage of Dalton Trumbo himself in a moving interview.

With the current U.S. pre-elections showing some candidates have platforms that seem to prey on weaker characters, appealing to hate, paranoia and bigotry, Trumbo reminds us that when the scared and petty get into office they ruin people’s lives in pursuit of their petty hateful agendas. Even without that, this is an excellent film. Knowing that, however, also makes it an extremely timely and cautionary one.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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