My interest with ‘Trumbo’ was initially all about Bryan Cranston, and the time period in which the film is set. Watching the trailer, the film hinted at the Communist witch-hunt of the 1950s, at the height of what we know as “classic” Hollywood. This, for me, is such an interesting time in the history of America; a time when the country is finding its identity, both politically and socially.
Bryan Cranston is Dalton Trumbo, an ex-army veteran of World War II, and when the film begins he is now a somewhat successful writer in 1940s Hollywood. But he is also a member of the Communist Party, which was an advantage, until ties between America and Russia were severed after the War. Now, under the scrutinising eyes of his movie-making peers, a loathsome writer by the name of Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and politicians, Trumbo must stay strong, for his career as a writer, his friends and ultimately his family.
The worry for an actor such as Bryan Cranston is that you might only see the actor and not the character he is portraying. Within five minutes, this worry disappears and you’re completely sold on Cranston as Dalton Trumbo. From his awkward yet ever present physicality, to his soft-spoken yet determined voice, Bryan Cranston is a joy to watch in every scene, and he is complimented beautifully by the other stars throughout. Dean O’ Gorman (who recently played Kili in The Hobbit) portrays Kirk Douglas really well. He is played with a respect for the actor and a reverence of his career at the time. I won’t spoil anything, but the way he is integrated into actual footage of ‘Spartacus’ is extremely well done. Throughout, the performances are sincere and not overly dramatic, which draws you into the film emotionally. I’m not afraid to admit, there were a few misty-eyed moments, which highlights the strength of the actors’ performances. By the end of the film, you find yourself sincerely caring about the characters and their relationships.
The score perfectly echoes the time period, while never being too overbearing. It cleverly and subtle compliments each scene and there may even have been a little toe-tapping from myself and other moviegoers at times. Also, the way the film is shot, just like the music, serves the overall experience superbly. It’s shot in a way where you’re given a good sense of the time period, yet the focus on the characters never drops. You’re sold completely on the story; the film doesn’t just rely on the period it’s set in. There’s a very bright feel to the movie, from the costumes and colours which have been saturated heavily, and everyone wears a fake smile to match the Hollywood facade. This sums up Hollywood in the 50s; everything looks glamorous, but it is all fuelled by greed, lies and back-stabbing. Add this to the social paranoia of the time, where friends betray friends to survive, and you have a tense and delicate atmosphere framing the whole story.
‘Trumbo’ is a well-written film first and foremost, driven by a script that is engaging but never sensationalist. The pacing is steady for the most part, however my only issue is that, at about two thirds into the film, there are ten minutes where the film stalls a little. This is only a slight issue, and the pace towards the end really picks up and delivers a satisfying film overall. This is truly a film for film fans.
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman