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April 21, 2019

Movie Review: Trumbo

by Sam Tremayne 24 February 2016

Have you heard about that delightful movie coming out set in old school 1940s and 50s Hollywood, with a great cast and clever writing? Hail Caesar!?

Actually, we’re talking about Trumbo – a biopic on acclaimed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers.) With a somewhat similar theme to Hail Caesar, Roach takes a heavier approach compared to the Coen Brother’s shtick.

The gravitas comes from one of the best actors in the world - Bryan Cranston. Following on from his legendary performance in Breaking Bad, he shape-shifts once again to deliver another memorable and captivating character. Cranston channels the brilliant, albeit stubborn, writer who, under the First Amendment’s ‘right to free speech,’ refuses a Supreme Court order to answer if he is a communist.

Set around 1947, Americans are still reeling from World War II and are unsure about their once brief friendship with the Russians. A sense of fear drives the ‘anti-Soviet’ movement and anyone who denounces democracy is a criminal.

This in turn causes Trumbo and his comrades ( Louis C.K, Alan Tudyk among others) to be trialled and sent to prison. As a bonus, they’ll all be permanently blacklisted from working in Hollywood again, with the support of powerful actors such as John Wayne (J.A.G’s David James Elliot) standing in their way.

Meanwhile, Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) is a former starlet-turned-journalist who spreads anti-communist propaganda and, soon, the entire United States seems to be opposed to Trumbo’s idea that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and viewpoint.

To support his family – massive props to Diane Lane as Cleo Trumbo, the strong and determined wife – Dalton must write under a pseudonym and in secret. This becomes something of a problem when one of his films wins an Academy Award . At the time, the industry was beginning to falter with sub-par writers, due to the fact that the biggest were blacklisted as part of the ‘Hollywood 10,’ which only served to highlight the obvious talent behind Trumbo’s pen name.

Trumbo is a tight film - well written and continually fascinating. However, the pace feels a little flat – largely due to the start-stop nature of the scenes that end without too much ever felt at stake. It’s a structural issue more than dialogue.

That said, Trumbo is a fascinating insight into a time and a story rarely told on screen; it’s informative despite a little droll. Hail Caesar will be the opposite of that, so be sure to pick either movie dependent on your mood. Do that, and you’ll enjoy both films just fine!

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