Hollywood loves talking about itself with films such as ‘The Player’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard’. Using cinema to reveal fictional scandals of real-life counterparts allows film-makers to vent without being sued. When some of its participants are dead then movies are made about subjects who no longer have libel laws on their side. ‘Trumbo’ charts a chapter in the life of a famed screen-writer. The person himself shouldn’t be too aggrieved by his cinematic depiction as it shows a man of conviction refusing to be defeated by a rotten system.
In the 1940’s, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood’s top screen-writer. An expert at words, he became tongue-tied when charged by the House of Un-American activities. A member of the Communist party, Trumbo’s beliefs saw him become blacklisted and jailed. Determined to expose this injustice he wrote under other names which led to further success. With the likes of gossip queen Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) looking on, Trumbo became a subversive avenger like the heroes in his scripts.
‘Trumbo’ is an interesting story of someone refusing to give in. Bull-headed in his beliefs, Trumbo sought to fight against right-wing conservative agencies. With an era full of them his battle was difficult but not impossible. Taking a toll on his family, mental health and professional life, his creative egotism and close friendships would be tested. More importantly, Trumbo wanted his name to be no longer used for scorn and make it mean something once more.
None of this would work as well if not for Cranston’s performance. Embodying Trumbo’s tenacious nature but still showing emotional foibles, Cranston successfully conveys his character’s imperfections. His co-stars including Diane Lane, as Trumbo’s wife, all give excellent renditions of people with their own agendas. Whilst the screenplay suffers from a somewhat predictable bio-pic formula, it has enough crackling energy to maintain engagement.
It’s always exciting seeing a movie depicting a moment in time not often remarked. ‘Trumbo’ may have some narrative faults but it has an abundance of strong characters to make it shine. Once again Hollywood has shone a light on itself but in this instance its self-indulgence is welcome.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 7
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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