Directed by Jay Roach
Written by John McNamara
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Helen Mirren
“Trumbo” a biopic about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was the screenwriter behind such cinematic classics as “Roman Holiday,” “The Brave One,” and “Spartacus.” I suppose it is just a little ironic that a movie about one of the great Hollywood screenwriters lacks a strong script of its own. John McNamara wrote a good script; it just was not as strong as it could have been. Macnamara told the story of Dalton Trumbo, and he told it well. He did an excellent job exploring how Trumbo got blacklisted and how the blacklist affected Trumbo. What McNamara could have done is spent more time with the people around Trumbo outside his close friends and imitate family, he could have explored the effects of the blacklist on the industry. McNamara does spend some time in the industry, but he only looks at the two extremes of the issue. The movie does not look at people sympathetic to Trumbo, or people who took a more middle stance. They either supporters or were against Trumbo.
The whole movie feels like a self-righteous made for TV movie, which is nothing more than Hollywood patting itself on the back. Hollywood, as an industry, is certainly one that loves to be self-aggrandizing by always reminding people of the good things it does, and with “Trumbo” tries to bring some good out of one of its less than favorable time in its history. The film tries hard, too hard at times, to make Trumbo a martyr for the first amendment. Which is fine because Trumbo certainly crusaded for the rights protected by the first amendment. However, martyrdom is not the whole, story nor should it be the lens through which Trumbo’s story is told.
The self-importance of the film aside “Trumbo” was wonderfully cast, and featured outstanding performances from the whole cast. Bryan Cranston delivers an engrossing performance that is certainly one of the years best. If Cranston is not nominated for an Academy Award, his name is going to be in the conversation. While Cranston was engaging as the lead of the film, a lead actor is only as good as the cast that supports him. “Trumbo” has a strong supporting cast, that features a standout performance from the comedian Louis C.K., who like Cranston is a name to look for come Oscar time. C.K. holds his own in every scene he shared with Cranston and given the strength of Cranston’s performance that feat is not something easily accomplished.
Jay Roach, the director of the movie, did a decent job directing the film. Considering that McNamara did not give Roach the strongest script with which to work. Roach told the story in a concise and engaging way, and coaxed career-best performances out of his lead and supporting actors.
“Trumbo” while it does get lost in its self-importance and martyrdom of its subject that can feel like a glorified TV movie fit for HBO. The strong performances from the stellar cast and the direction of the film are what make “Trumbo” worth seeing.
There is certainly more than enough material to craft an independent movie about the blacklist and the Hollywood Ten, not focusing on one specific individual but the incident as a whole. That would be an interesting movie to make. A lot of that is my personal bias because I am fascinated by that period.