Jay Roach / Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis CK / Drama / 2016 / 15 / 124mins
What makes a man tick?
For Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) it’s screenwriting. He’s a genius and proud of his job, earning big bucks and fame. However, as WWII draws to a close, Communist aggression leads to his arrest and exclusion from the big league studios.
Despite his place on the infamous Blacklist, Trumbo signs pseudonymously for King Brothers Studios to churn out B-movie scripts for a living before triumphantly returning to former glory with Spartacus, picking up the odd Oscar here and there. It’s strangely evocative of the whole Fury Road ‘A-to-B-to-A’ sequence, except this time there’s Commies and Movies and the ups and downs you come to expect.
Cranston is assured and as confident as ever. His whole embodiment of Trumbo – the accent, the calmly delivered wit, and, ultimately, the emotional weight behind certain scenes – is quite striking and unequivocally human, a deserved Oscar nom. Mirren is devilishly cunning and wry as Hedda Hopper but the rest of the cast are left floundering.
The deeper problem is that Cranston can’t explore his character further. Roach turns an inspiring figure sour with an incoherent script. We flit between bookmarks in the life of Trumbo, major incidents that dog his family and his career, but there’s an underlying paranoia that should be haunting every frame: the fear of McCarthyism, the fear that someone, anyone, your neighbour or your Mom, could hightail you to court and have you arrested for nothing more than an (often assumed) political leaning.
To not utilise the context of this grossly underfilmed era is treason – we have been robbed of a potentially terrifying psychological thriller. Worse yet, we have been robbed of a convincing character study. The actors can’t express themselves to a high standard, simplicity glosses the film, and it becomes gallingly long.
Cranston’s supposed vehicle to Oscardom is a polished but plain period drama, visually flat and lacking a cutting edge.
Doesn’t do Trumbo’s sharp wit justice.
Film as a Film – 2 / Target Audience – 2 / General Audience – 2
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By Source, fair use Wikipedia. This is a poster for Trumbo. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Bleecker Street, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.