The successful career of 1940s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) comes to a crushing end when he and other Hollywood figures are blacklisted for their political beliefs. The film tells the story of his fight against the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom, which entangled everyone in Hollywood from Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and John Wayne (David James Elliott) to Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) and Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel).
This one was a special one to me as I won tickets in a contest to an advanced screening of this film. What made it special was that I never win anything so of course I jumped on the opportunity. Bryan Cranston hasn’t done too many films (for good reason) but I’ve always found him to be a great actor so I was excited about this one. So this film is about famous Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) and his battle against the U.S. government, the film studio bosses, and the american people based on his communist beliefs. He spends most of his time trying to help him and his fellow screenwriter friends by getting them work. This was hard for Trumbo and his friends after they were blacklisted for being involved in communist activities. He has to use all of his cunning to try to circumvent this blacklist by submitting his work, aided by his screenwriter friends including Arlen Hird (Louis C.K.), under different names because his own name was associated with communism. It was interesting to see this little piece of past Hollywood history as I learnt about a lot of things I did not know about. To be honest before I heard of this film, I never heard of Dalton Trumbo. Along the way the film had a multitude of great supporting characters such as Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman), John Wayne (David James Elliott), Frank King (John Goodman), and Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg) just to name a few. I thought they, as well as the numerous other people who appeared in this film, all gave great performances but the best has to be Cranston’s performance as Trumbo. Cranston’s Oscar-worthy performance was fun to watch to say the least and I found he had great command of the screen. His performance might take some getting used to but I did not mind. Mirren’s Hopper was good as Trumbo’s foil but I just wish I had seen more of her because of her limited screen time. What helped was that all of the actors had great chemistry with one another so I just believed more in what I was seeing. In a fun irony a film about a screenwriter also has a great script as it was just a fun film to watch. Some might not like the depiction of Trumbo here but I have no baseline to compare so I didn’t mind. Also the film glosses over the whole communism trial and does not really talk about the Cold War other than a few captions at the beginning of the film. The second half of the film does get a little preachy so some may not be into that. The film did also feel long to me but I may have been tired. Overall, this is a great biopic led by a great script and great performances, especially by Cranston.