Kyle J. Steenblik

Trumbo is So Good, it is Simply Unfair

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Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: John McNamara
Based on: Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Helen Mirren, Alan Tudyk
Running time 124 minutes
Rated R for language including some sexual references


5 stars out of 5In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he and other artists (The Hollywood 10) were called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee about their membership of and involvement in the communist party.  When Trumbo and his associates refused to answer the committee’s questions, they were jailed for contempt of congress and blacklisted from working with any Hollywood film studio.  Faced with the injustice of the loss of their profession Dalton Trumbo bends his will to breaking the blacklist, and keeping himself and his fellow workers employed by continuing to write and sell screenplays under an ever changing array of pseudonyms and other proxy writers.  In doing this Trumbo managed to earn two Oscars, and helped to end the blacklisting of hundreds in Hollywood.

Trumbo is a rare film that housed so many nearly perfect elements that the harshest criticism I could make would be that it was too brief, and there were too many omissions.  I could, and did, say that it is simply unfair to make a film with dialogue so magnificent it incites raging envy in anyone that has ever attempted to craft it themselves.  As a writer, I was momentarily inspired to simply give up because I could never do it that well, but then that moment passed and I was twice as inspired to write better words.  In the meantime, I was silently shouting at the screen “stop that, it is simply not fair”, especially when other characters in the film pointed this out.  It is entirely possible that the fact that this was a film, about film, a subject that you may have guessed, about which I have quite strong feelings.  Now that I have admitted my bias here, I hope you might understand how hard it is for me to be critical about this movie.  Trumbo is perhaps too well constructed, and plays like a fan-boyish exhalation of Dalton Trumbo, while Trumbo does not come off smelling entirely of roses, the real atrocities of the witch-hunt and Hollywood blacklist come off as less awful than they were.

The ensemble cast in this film is nothing short of incredible, on every count.  Most of the actors are well known to be incredible, and very capable; in fact, with the talent assembled on screen it would have been remarkable for there to be anything short of a dozen spectacular performances.  Bryan Cranston was perfect in his depiction of Dalton Trumbo, and I do mean perfect quite sincerely, it was some of the finest acting I have ever seen.  Louis C.K. was also noteworthy; delivering a performance that was so surprising I had to remind myself countless times that this was the man that brought us Pootytang.  I feel a little bad for bringing that up, but I have been a fan of his for a long time now, and this is the last thing I would expect to see and I am ecstatic to see it.

While this may not be everyone’s favorite film this year, it is, and will be, one of mine.

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