Movie Review – ‘Trumbo’

“Trumbo” takes viewers on a fascinating ride of contrition and redemption… The film’s notion is that anyone’s potential can be reached through hard work—in spite of roadblocks or “blacklists”.

– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

This photo provided by Bleecker Street shows, Helen Mirren, left, as Hedda Hopper and Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, in Jay Roach’s "Trumbo," a Bleecker Street release. The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Bleecker Street via AP)

Helen Mirren, left, as Hedda Hopper and Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo. (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Bleecker Street via AP)

Emmy award-winning television veteran Bryan Cranston stars in this dramedy set in Hollywood during the Cold War. Portraying eccentric true-life screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, Cranston acknowledges joining the Communist Party to close entertainment associates in 1947, just as America and Congress begin weighing national security threats from Russia.

Although Cranston’s Dalton Trumbo character babbles on about anti-capitalism and his penchant for communism over democracy, the boisterous wordsmith is never actually willing to give up–or share–his plush life or income with others in a common ownership society.

“Trumbo” implies a comparison between our government’s concern over citizens’ private activities during the 1940-50s and today’s monitoring of America’s social media and movements. Despite the film’s early energy towards vilifying Congress over public hearings and ramblings over testifying before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, it’s Dalton Trumbo who ultimately dishes out the punishment upon himself, his family and his career.

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This film boils down to a bathtub writing Scotch drinker who overcomes numerous self-inflicted setbacks to rise to the top of his screenwriter profession. It captures the once outspoken Trumbo, now having to bite his tongue under a Hollywood “blacklist” to produce movie scripts anonymously underground. Using aliases to survive, Trumbo’s talented writing skills soon find the fruits of capitalism—his goods and services in popular demand from actors, studio executives and American moviegoers.

Aside from the confident and spectacular Bryan Cranston, the proven cast of “Trumbo” include superstars Diane Lane, Helen Mirren and John Goodman. But it’s a very watchable Cranston who steps out from his wildly successful “Breaking Bad” persona and regular appearances on “Malcolm in the Middle” to deliver the offbeat “Trumbo” narrative and its quirky moments.

Once this film steadies on the Hollywood “blacklist” story, “Trumbo” takes viewers on a fascinating ride of contrition and redemption. Talk of Congressional witch hunts and communism are replaced Dalton Trumbo’s capitalistic need to sell his products for profit.  The film’s notion is that anyone’s potential can be reached through hard work—in spite of roadblocks or “blacklists”.

It’s Trumbo, late in life, who ponders whether his earlier activism was worth it? For what, he asks? His regret underscores the pain he caused himself, and his family, over the years. “Trumbo” stands for individualism and freedom—both earmarks of the protections and rights under our Constitutional and capitalistic systems. The nation he thought viewed him as a threat, never charged him with being a Communist—only holding him in contempt for refusing to answer questions from Congress. That marks the film’s greatest lesson—one taking responsibility for their own actions.

Grade: B+

“Trumbo” is rated R for language, including some sexual references.  Its running time is 2 hours and 4 minutes.

© 2015, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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