Directed by Jay Roach
The career of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is halted by a witch hunt in the late 1940s when he defies the anti-communist HUAC committee and is blacklisted.
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★★★½ review by Wesley R. Ball on Letterboxd
I've never really understood the point in disliking celebrities because of their personal lives. If they make good movies for entertainment value, what's the point in talking about their personal lives? Sure, Tarantino's a jerkwad sometimes, but I still love seeing his films. As long as the films they make don't get obnoxiously political, I could care less if they're straight or gay, Communist or Republican.
We've definitely come a long way from the Blacklist of the 1940's, when certain people's opinions were viewed as volatile and dangerous to the wellbeing of the country. There's a ridiculous sense of paranoia that looms about these characters, making me wonder at all why they really care. At the center of everyone is Helen Mirren, playing Devil's Advocate to Dalton Trumbo's career opportunities. She is presented as a sort of villainous character without any real motives. All she really wants is to watch the world burn. It's a shame that her character wasn't in the film enough, I honestly felt she was sorely underused.
Bryan Cranston, however, gives a fabulous knockout performance as the title character. His accent was spot on, and he pretty much disappeared into the role for me. Had he not been in this, if someone else had been playing Dalton Trumbo, I honestly feel that this film would have fallen completely flat. I give major props to Cranston for taking an ironically subpar script and making it something at least a little worthwhile. Oh, and whoever played Kirk Douglas absolutely nailed it. That guy can do a perfect impression, he should be hired for a Michael Douglas biopic or something.
Bryan Cranston is my runner up behind Michael Fassbender for Best Actor. I'll be happy if either of them win for their respective performances, because both of them were absolutely delightful. Behind a flawed story and script, Cranston shines on his own. Trumbo was a biopic that certainly could have been handled better, but Bryan Cranston wins for pushing through everything and still coming out on top. He definitely deserved that nomination.
★★★½ review by Ryster on Letterboxd
Here's the thing with Trumbo, I thought it was a solid if not slightly disappointing biopic. I say this because I had heard about the story but only merely and I was excited to find out what actually happened. This film does tell the story but it suffers from the problem that I have with near every biopic. This film does a very fine job in telling a story that spans more than 20 to 30 years but much is left out and a lot is only glanced over. I also thought that there was a pacing issue with the film. Trumbo is a 2 hour film that does feel longer. Admittedly I wasn't bored throughout and was constantly entertained but it feels an awful lot longer than it is. I was actually surprised to see some less than favourable reviews of the film. It might not be one of the years best but this is a lot better than a lot of films that came out this year, then again it's all a matter of opinion. If you're a seasoned professional in movies and the art of moviemaking then you've probably heard Trumbo's story more than once and there's nothing new for you (besides a very good performance by Louis C.K.) and if you just watch movies for fun you might not find interest in the story.
In 1947, Dalton Trumbo and fellow screenwriters get blacklisted for their beliefs. However, their passion and need of work is too strong for people to tell them what to do. This leads Trumbo and his friends to make some well-known and well-respected screenplays of the 1950s and 1960s.
Bryan Cranston is an incredible actor. We know this for his masterclass performance in Breaking Bad. He's very good as Dalton Trumbo. I forgot that I was watching him, he totally embodies the role and hands in an excellent performance. Louis C.K. is very good in his role. His character is totally made up, he didn't exist and is solely here for drama, comedy and a character to talk to Trumbo. He's hilarious at points delivering the funniest scenes in the movie. Diane Lane does a great job as Dalton's wife. Her performance might be the most realistic and human of the lot. To that character family is everything and it's put over in a very tender way. John Goodman shows up a few times and he's very funny and entertaining. Helen Mirren does a good job as Hedda Hopper, making her the perfect villain for this story. Elle Fanning also has quite a powerful performance as Trumbo's eldest daughter. Everyone does a perfect job.
The story can be very interesting to some. I didn't know a lot about Trumbo or the whole blacklist so I was intrigued from the very start. If you're like me and really like movies and don't know a lot about this story then you'll probably like it. That being said, if you love movies and already know this story then you'll probably just be happy with the finished product. This won't entertain everyone, you definitely have to be interested in film to enjoy it. The story spans many years and because of this I found there to be a slight pacing problem. It didn't bother me that much because I was invested but I think I'll be a bit bored if I rewatched it. The cinematography and overall direction is great and really feels like an old film, it's quite fun in that aspect. The costume design is really good. Overall I enjoyed Trumbo, it's got a great story, an absolute stellar cast and entertained me even in long overdrawn scenes. Biopics are a hard thing to perfect (I believe that the best way to tell them is in the form of a mini-series or something that can span more than 2 hours) and I believe that this story could've been done better but for what Trumbo is, it's anything but bad.
★★★★½ review by Christian Doig on Letterboxd
Dalton Trumbo was the guy who wrote some of my personal favourite movies: Gun Crazy, Exodus, Spartacus, El niño y el toro, Papillon... So it was a pleasant surprise that this biopic didn't mess up at all the material it was dealing with. I mean, look at the abysmal Hitchcock (2012), also co-starring Helen Mirren in, understandably, a pretty bland and thoroughly regrettable portrayal of Alma Reville. As that forgettable production was unworthy of its main subject, this one, with the same Mirren in the role of a beyond-bitchy, despicable Hedda Hopper, excels in doing Trumbo justice not only as a filmmaker, but also as a human being.
It is a fittingly very well-written screenplay, to begin with, in honor of one of the greatest writers Hollywood has ever benefited from, and the victims of the anti-communist witchhunt that stained America's democracy. As someone who is not an American-born citizen, I can confirm that the feeling of being willingly ignored or been made to pass as if you were not there, just invisible air, like Dalton Trumbo and others in the Black List, while, of course, being noticed right away when it comes to harm you and putting you down, it's one that resonates across the borders.
Needless to say, part of the entertainment --the harder the real drama, the higher the adventure peaks, that's fiction's nature even when it supposedly is non-fiction-- in a historical account such as this involves a few characters that the audience might feel uncomfortable watching under a light which scrutinizes them in a way so that they aren't able to escape their human imperfections, unlike in the movies they shone in and drove via their star power. And we are talking star power, indeed: Edward G. Robinson, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, even Otto Preminger, appear in positions that demand an extraordinary moral capacity to make decisions between right and wrong. They all being pretty much well-cast and all, I would have given the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor to John Goodman, who is a riot as B-movie producer Frank King.
In the lead, Bryan Cranston was simply great, conveying a much needed dignity and vulnerability to the proceedings. Excellent job by director Jay Roach, and specially screenwriter John McNamara (who also co-produced), whose work was at least nominated by the Writers Guild of America. Finally, you learn a big deal of what was like to be a writer in Hollywood during the final years of the Golden Age of classic movies, and that side of the film makes it a must-see for all kinds of exquisite movie buffs, like myself, interested in literature and writing. While it still is a fascinating education, all the deepest meanings and major consequences beneath the most tastefully done, matter-of-fact recreation of events in Trumbo speak of the nasty nature of our species, and a legacy which is actually frightening in its in-progress status.
★★★★ review by Martin28 on Letterboxd
I wanna break it down, not just by paragraphs, but by bullet points.
. Cranston deserved that nomination.
. Louis C.K gives a decent performance in a pretty wasted character.
. Same to be said about Helen Mirren.
. Michael Stuhlbarg here doing everything in his power not to not seem Jewish and ending up kinda sucking.
. Runtime is about 30 minutes too long.
. But y'know what? I had fun. I liked it and I enjoyed the ending.
★★★½ review by Andy Summers on Letterboxd
Film fans have often heard of famous names in the industry without truly knowing exactly who and what they were in the larger scheme of things in Hollywood. I knew Dalton Trumbo was a blacklisted screenwriter back in the days of fervent anti-communism in the US during the late forties and fifties, but I must admit that was about as much as I knew about the man. This biopic from director Jay Roach sheds light on the bigger picture of Trumbo's life and struggles against an America that distrusted his political views and everything he stood for, and a fine film it is too, but the subsequent accusations of historical inaccuracies again murky the waters between fact and fiction. One thing is for certain, Bryan Cranston deserved his Academy Award nomination, because he portrays a driven, compelling character torn between his principles and providing for his family. Talent wasn't the issue for Trumbo, his political ideology was, and although he penned some incredible screenplays throughout his career, it may well be his determination not to be silenced, pigeon-holed, or discriminated against that will be his legacy. I've read quite a bit about him since watching this film and he seems like a truly fascinating character, and I'll probably pick up Bruce Alexander Cook's book. Cranston however is not alone in impressing onscreen. Diane Lane is equally good, Helen Mirren a ghastly incarnation of Hedda Hopper, (who I did know a bit about), and decent caricatures of Edward G Robinson by Michael Stuhlbarg and Dean O'Gorman's portrayal of Kirk Douglas which I thought was spot on. Not quite so sure about David James Elliott's John Wayne, but again, there were very few flaws in what was an interesting and enlightening biopic.
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