So far this year, we've already seen a few great biopics - the likes of Spotlight and The Big Short - and the list is only continuing. Next up is the Jay Roach directed Trumbo, focusing on the period in Hollywood when the eponymous screenwriter - played here by Bryan Cranston - was blacklisted. I have been eagerly anticipating this film for some time now and here's my review.
In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) was one of Hollywood's top and highest paid screenwriters. However, things began to go awry for the acclaimed writer when he and fellow artists were outcast and blacklisted because of their political beliefs and support of the Communist Party of the USA, after they catch the attention of anti-Soviet entertainment industry denizen Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren). When he, his friend Arlen Hird (Louis C.K) and 8 other screenwriters - forming the elusive 'Hollywood 10' - are subpoenaed to testify before the United States Congress regarding their acts, they try to fight for their life by standing for what they believe in. When his life and family and finance gets in detriment, Trumbo starts working again and writes some of his greatest works - from Roman Holiday to The Brave One to Spartacus - under various aliases and fake names, garnering more and more support as he progresses, in an attempt to try and expose the injustice of the blacklist.
The true story of Trumbo is something of a legend when it comes to the film industry. The infamous blacklist was a very harrowing time for the world but for Hollywood, especially, and it ruined a lot of people's lives. It's always a period of time that is often overlooked or undermined when the true significance of it, on the cinematic industry especially, is fairly ineffable. Jay Roach's biopic puts the spotlight on this aforementioned period of history and centres around one of the biggest figures of controversy at this time, Dalton Trumbo, and it tells this story incredibly, peeling away layer after layer of this era and this story. John McNamara's screenplay is astounding, elegantly telling this story through some compelling characters and utterly riveting dialogue, luring you in and keeping you engaged throughout, with an intriguing and tense narrative.
The acting is great too. Helen Miller, Diane Lane and Michael Stuhlbarg all give some stellar support here, but it's just a shame that they didn't get more screentime or much development and are merely just there to add to Cranston's Trumbo. However, the Breaking Bad alum is astounding as our eponymous screenwriter. This is perfect casting and Cranston gives a very subdued, reserved performance and it works brillianlty for the material. This is his film and he steals the show, without a shadow of doubt. However, special mentions should be given to John Goodman, Elle Fanning and Louis C.K who are all standouts from the supporting cast. They all do some wonderful work here and their characters are probably the most intriguing from the rest.
Trumbo is an exceptional film. It's very sublime and subdued and a compelling character study of one of the most iconic screenwriters in Hollywood. The cinematography is gorgeous and this is a very stylish-looking film, that feels like it belongs right in this time. McNamara's screenplay is rich and glorious and works exceptionally superbly with Roach's elegance craftsmanship. It's not a film without flaw, however, and the pacing and the tone can feel a little disjointed and uneven at times. With a runtime of 124 minutes, it also feels very long and when the narrative is flowing, the film races by but when it slows down to take a pause (which happens a bit too often), it really drags and tedium begins to kick in. In the end though, this is a stunning piece of cinema. It's stylish, illustrious and thoroughly riveting and Cranston absolutely kills it.
Jay Roach has delivered a very subdued but compelling biopic with Trumbo - an incredible film with a stellar Bryan Cranston as our lead.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.