Trumbo is one of 2015’s best films. Its amazing story, its serious message and its sense of humor make it a “must see” for lovers of movies and movie history.
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was a real-life screenwriter who wrote scripts for numerous hit movies. He was also a Communist. Along with like-minded members of the movie community such as actor Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlberg) and writers Arlen Hurd (Louis CK) and Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk), Trumbo went up against right-wingers like John Wayne (David James Elliott) and gossip queen Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) in Hollywood.
In one of the film’s memorable scenes, Hurd questions Trumbo about an apparent contradiction: he earns riches and enjoys the fruits of his labors while supporting the socialist philosophy of Communism. Another favorite scene features a confrontation between Trumbo and Wayne, in which Trumbo asks Wayne to let him remove his glasses first in case the Duke plans to punch him.
After World War II, Trumbo and other Hollywood figures are summoned to testify before Congress. Trumbo is held in contempt and incarcerated. Upon his return to L.A., because he is blacklisted, he has to work under assumed names. Much of that work is on “B-movies” for Frank King (John Goodman). Another favorite scene has King grabbing a baseball bat and menacing a right-winger who threatens to lead a boycott of King’s movies. Trumbo’s script for Roman Holiday (written under an alias) earned a screenwriting Oscar.
With love and support from his family, including wife Cleo (Diane Lane) and daughter Niki (Elle Fanning), Trumbo gradually edges back into the mainstream. Courageously, actor Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) and director Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) step up and hire Trumbo to script Spartacus.
Trumbo deals with a serious topic but has many good laughs. Cranston plays the role with sincerity but a bit of bemusement at the way his career careens. The director is Jay Roach who directed the hilarious Austin Powers and Fockers movies.The script is by John McNamara.
Trumbo concludes with a heartfelt speech at an awards ceremony that allows Dalton Trumbo to say how he feels about what happened to him. In postwar America, just three decades after Russia’s revolution, there was serious concern about the threat of Communism. It is easy to look back now and see how the response to Trumbo’s activism was an gross overreaction.