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2016-02-19 08:32

What it's about:

In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter until he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and subsequently finds himself jailed and blacklisted for his political beliefs. Following his release from prison, Trumbo fights back by continuing to write screenplays under a pseudo name, winning two Oscars in the process.

What we thought:

In the late forties, Hollywood was under attack as a Communist haven, influencing popular culture to further their socialist agenda. Or this was how the government viewed them in the Soviet Russia era. The fear mongering and blacklisting of people with ties to any communist parties or friends was a ridiculous yet cruel blemish on American history. And what better way to represent this than through the eyes of Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter so brazenly in defiance of the absurdity of the House Un-American Activities Committee that he risked his career and family for his principles. 

Set at the height of the communist witch-hunt in America, Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) fights for the rights of film-set workers and is a member of the Communist Party. Despite being one of the most paid and celebrated writers of the time, he becomes blacklisted after refusing to testify in Congress and denouncing his beliefs. Despite the blacklist, he continues to write B-grade scripts and two Academy-winning films, all with other writers as fronts or under pseudonyms, dismantling the blacklist behind-the-scenes with every key of his typewriter.

Trumbo is probably one of the most fascinating characters from that time, an oxymoron who lived like a capitalist but bled like a communist. This is a film that is so well cast that the downfalls of a sloppy script is smudged over by performances so rich you get lost in them instead of the story. Without Cranston, Helen Mirren, Louis CK, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning and many more, this could have easily been a very forgettable autobiographical film. 

The two that stood out though was Cranston and Mirren, who go head-to-head with Mirren playing Hedda Hopper, a malicious gossip columnist who loved hunting and ostracising alleged communists through her articles. Mirren oozes poison with every word, and her insincere banters with Cranston are perfection. Cranston again proves how underrated his comedic timing is from before Breaking Bad, and gives his most stellar performance on the big screen. He brings not only Dalton Trumbo back to life, but also brings that whole era of Hollywood with him, a pleasant yet sad trip through Hollywood history. Cranston is also a pro at connecting with his various co-actors in their respective scenes, most notably spurring on great chemistry between him and Louis CK, who plays his cynical playwright friend Arlen Hird, a character made up of various of Trumbo’s blacklisted compatriots. 

Trumbo is a film made up of stellar performances with a script that could have easily tanked the whole endeavour. Even though director Jay Roach is from slapstick comedy fame (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents), his actors kept the comedic scenes rooted in the seriousness of the blacklist, a simple device so laughable yet it managed to ruin the lives of many Hollywood greats and would-be greats.

Read more on:    helen mirren  |  bryan cranston  |  diane lane  |  movies

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