During the 1930s, in response to the Great Depression and the rise of fascism, thousands of Americans joined the Communist Party of the United States. One notable member was accomplished novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who joined the group in 1943. But as the Cold War started up, new suspicions were cast on American communists, escalating into a witch-hunt that famously and publicly plagued Hollywood.
Bryan Cranston delivers an amazing performance as Dalton Trumbo. His performance is probably worth the price of admission alone. It’s fun to see him get lost in a character who isn’t obsessed with selling drugs. It’s insane that people are saying that Bryan Cranston doesn’t deserve the spot between the Best Actor category at the Oscars. The ending credits feature clips of the real Dalton Trumbo being interviewed, and it brings clarity to Cranston’s performance.
Diane Lane plays Dalton’s wife, Cleo, the rock that Trumbo leans against for support and who makes him see his actions. Louis C.K. does a great job as the fictional character Arlen, Trumbo’s contemporary, who is also blacklisted and imprisoned for his beliefs. He provides a great straight man to Trumbo’s eccentricity, making the audience realize his actions. Actor Edward G. Robinson is played by Michael Stuhlbarg, who works well physically, but lacks every bit of Robinson’s timbre and trademark voice inflections. John Goodman is brilliant in the supporting role of Frank King, a studio owner who has never overestimated the intelligence of the people that flock to his Grade B movies. Although he is a little bit underused.
Though the film moves through history swiftly, with plenty of amusing roles played by recognizable character actors, it doesn’t do a particularly convincing job of making the communists the heroes or the McCarthy backers the villains (save for Hopper). It also doesn’t detail the specific crimes, prison terms, and relationships between the numerous characters involved. The movie starts quickly and doesn’t waste much time with setup. Throughout we get so many scenes that it almost feels rushed. There is one point in the film, where Trumbo develops a relationship with director Otto Preminger. Not that this portion of Trumbo’s life isn’t important, but most other scenarios are shown to us as if through a slide projector, while this particular instance is given so much screen time that it becomes a distraction. It slows down the film so much for such a minimally significant part in the story.
As a biographical bit of entertainment, “Trumbo” is more than agreeable, serving as a modestly educational comedic drama. I pretty much enjoyed it.
Trumbo gets a 7.5/10.