Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren
Director: Jay Roach
Running Time: 124 mins
Trumbo is an American film about the true story of famed Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who, at the height of the Red Scare in the 1940s and 50s, was blacklisted for being a member of the Communist Party.
This is a film about two of my favourite things ever: mid-20th Century history and Old Hollywood, so surely, this should be one of my favourite films ever, right? Well, whilst the true story of Dalton Trumbo is undoubtedly fascinating, this film doesn’t quite give it the gusto and drama that it really deserves. Bryan Cranston is excellent in the lead role, but for the most part, Trumbo just didn’t have any real impact on me.
Before we get into that, however, we have to talk about the biggest positive of the movie, which is Bryan Cranston’s performance. Although it may seem that he’s overacting at times, his performance is really excellent. It’s something that Cranston does so well time and time again, disappearing completely into his character to the point where you really can’t see it’s him. He, more so than anything else in the movie, brilliantly shows Trumbo’s determination for free speech and justice through his energetic and passionate performance.
Now, let’s talk about the screenplay. Simply put, it’s not powerful enough. The main reason that I was intrigued in this film was because of my own fascination with the true life story, but not because of anything the movie itself did to get me more interested, and because of that, I have to assume that anyone who’s not particularly into this period of Hollywood history isn’t going to take to this film too well.
The screenplay is well-written, and in the first act, there are some decent snappy dialogue scenes where we see the best of the wise-cracking Trumbo, but as the film goes on, it really begins to sag when it should have been building a great sense of triumph as Trumbo fought against the people who wanted to silence him.
This brings me to the main point of the review, which is that this movie doesn’t make you care enough about what’s at stake. People have been uneasy about the fact that all the protagonists of the movie are Communists, but in the grand scheme of things, it makes no difference, because the main focus of the film is about freedom speech and justice for all.
However, the film doesn’t deliver on that theme well enough. What Trumbo should have been was a story where the injustice portrayed got under your skin, and made you really passionate about what the Hollywood Ten were fighting for, building and building around characters doing the right thing that makes you just engaged in their fight as they were.
But sadly, it doesn’t quite pull that off, leaving a large portion of this film, where that should have been the main focus, unfortunately dry and bland. From a historical point of view, it’s definitely an intriguing story, but as a film in and of itself, it doesn’t quite succeed, and that’s why Trumbo gets a 7.3 from me.