“Trumbo” is director Jay Roach’s tribute to screenwriter Dalton Trumbo: A man who was blacklisted and jailed during the communist scare of the late 40s and 50s, for his uncompromising principles concerning his rights.
When the House Un-American Activities Committee started going after people in the 1940s nobody in question was left unscathed, including Hollywood. In 1947 the committee called ten actors, directors, and screenwriters, to Washington D.C. who were being questioned about their communist ties and were later blacklisted: One of those ten, called the “Hollywood Ten,” was Dalton Trumbo.
Trumbo, (Bryan Cranston) is jailed for contempt of court during the hearing, but sticks to his guns under questioning. His unwavering performance in court results in 11 months in jail and 12 years on a blacklist that keeps him from working (or least working, under his real name). Meanwhile, Trumbo writes the Academy Award winning screenplay for “Roman Holiday” (1953), and Ian McLellan Hunter accepts the credit as a front man. Then Trumbo writes the screenplay for “The Brave One” (1956) and wins another Academy Award under the pseudonym Robert Rich. Trumbo continues to work under an alias for bombastic producer (John Goodman), writing and re-writing screenplays until he is publicly acknowledged by Otto Preminger for “Exodus” (1960) and then Kirk Douglas for the screenplay of “Spartacus” (1960).
The movie is pretty cut and dry with Bryan Cranston performing the Trumbo role to perfection. The fun comes when the peripheral characters come into play: Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg) is blacklisted for his communist affiliation; John Wayne (David James Elliot) makes a patriotic stand; and Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) saves the day. Diane Lane and Helen Mirren also make appearances as Trumbo’s wife and columnist Hedda Hopper. This is a good movie with a lot of dialog and it would be no surprise if Cranston gets an Oscar nod. (Rated R/ 124 mins/ bio – drama).
Reviewer’s Note: In 2011, Trumbo was given credit for writing the screenplay for “Roman Holiday” by the Writers Guild of America (nearly 60 years after the fact).
Reviewer’s Rating: 4 of 5 Red Scares.