In a brilliant collaboration, superstar actor Bryan Cranston and director Jay Roach examine the turbulent life and career of Hollywood legend Dalton Trumbo. Here’s the synopsis:
Set during the height of the Cold War, noted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) finds his life and livelihood shattered when he is placed on the blacklist and barred from working in Hollywood. But this sly trickster is not about to go down without a fight, and through cunning and skill creates some of the most defining movies of the Hollywood’s Golden Age including Roman Holiday, Spartacus and Exodus.
5. Hollywood’s Golden Age
With precision and class director Jay Roach effortlessly captures Hollywood’s Golden Age with solid attention to detail that pulls the audience into his impressive biographical story. Period costuming and production design serve to bring the audience into the time period, recreating the glamour and glitz of Hollywood’s boom years. Roach fills out his Hollywood with an assortment of amazing supporting players including Michael Stuhlbarg as the sophisticated and cultured Edward G. Robinson, David James Elliot as All-American hero John Wayne, John Goodman as foul-mouthed B movie studio executive Frank King, Dean O’Gorman as the charming and charismatic Kirk Douglas, and finally Christina Berkel as the intensely focused Otto Preminger.
4. Diane Lane: living in the shadow of genius
Trumbo is far and away a character study, but not just of its main character. As Dalton’s wife Cleo Fincher Trumbo, Diane Lane brings a modern sensibility to the role. Cleo is the glue that holds her family together in the darkest of hours and is also the facilitator of her husband’s black market activities, taking an active role in shepherding his under-the-counter screenplays. Lane breathes energy and life into Cleo and holds her own besides the commanding presence of Cranston.
3. Helen Mirren: gossip queen
Every movie needs a villain, and Helen Mirren provides a very memorable one as the egotistical, catty, and slightly maniacal true life gossip queen Hedda Hopper, who makes it her business to end Dalton Trumbo’s career. As Hopper, Mirren channels an intense hatred for America’s Communists, striving to drive them out of Hollywood by utilsing her immense popularity. Mirren is completely committed to her performance as this unapologetic and fervently nasty gossip. It’s a side of Mirren that we’ve never really seen before, and she excels at it, providing a villain for Trumbo to triumph over.
2. Bryan Cranston: screenwriter extraordinaire
Anchoring the film is the thoroughly masterful thespian force of Bryan Cranston, whose dedication to his character pulls the audience into the story of an extraordinary man who had to fight to have his voice heard. Cranston portrays Trumbo as a thinker, always scheming with candour and wit to help the common man. There’s a certain showmanship to Trumbo, who throughout the film finds himself with his back against the wall many times, but is never far from a daring and brilliant escape. While at times the character does grow dark through the suffering that is placed on him, Cranston always finds a way to balance it with the light, just as the real Trumbo would have done.
1. The artistic fight for freedom
While the success of Trumbo rests on the shoulders of Cranston, it’s the film’s message of freedom, and the right to express one’s own ideas and thoughts that will truly resonate with audiences. While Trumbo does identify as a communist, his rhetoric never aligns itself to the state of Communist Russian and Cold War feelings, but rather for his own concern that others should be treated fairly, and to have a chance for their own voices to be heard.
Image source: eOne Films.