It’s hard not to feel sorry for any films that come out around the 18 December release date of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s because it’s likely that they will get missed in all of the fanfare and the celebrations surrounding the release of such an iconic film. Many people will have gone to see Star Wars in lieu of anything else, and the resounding economic success of that film means that it’s very, very likely that you did too.
One of the movies that you may have missed is Trumbo. It stars Bryan Cranston as the titular Dalton Trumbo, an author and famed Hollywood screenwriter who was blacklisted in Hollywood for his communist tendencies in the heady anti-Soviet and pro-America days of the 1950s Cold War. The film is a biopic that jumps around the illustrative and interesting points in his life with his career, his pro-labour activities, his fellow blacklisted writers and actors and his family.
With all of the calculated verbosity and honesty that a champion wordsmith could muster, the character of Dalton Trumbo speaks about the necessity for freedom of speech, the right to freedom of association and the fact that patriotism can take many forms. The biopic follows him as he battles against the blacklist to write other films using pseudonyms, including Roman Holiday and The Brave One, for which he won Oscars, and the epic, Stanley Kubrick-directed Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas.
This film, put simply, is an acting clinic from Bryan Cranston, who again shows that he is one of the best working actors today. Yet instead of fulfilling my appetite for top-class acting it only whetted my appetite for an even better role for Cranston. The character of Dalton Trumbo is a stoic one, meaning that Cranston didn’t get to hit his full range. This doesn’t mean that this film isn’t well written, only that Cranston now needs to prove himself at the highest echelon of acting.
He is Supported brilliantly by Diane Lane, who only really has one scene to show off her acting chops but nails it. John Goodman and Louise C.K. are other big names in this film who provide an excellent performance, especially Goodman. But the other standout performance, in what must have been a difficult role to humanize, is Helen Mirren as the main antagonist. As Hedda Hopper she galvanizes the top Hollywood studios against anyone with pro-communist sympathies and puts Trumbo and his comrades on the Blacklist, ensuring that they are tarnished as un-American and that they are unable to work. The campaign is a success, just like Mirren’s acting.
This December is a crowded time in the theatres with many excellent films currently playing. But even with everything else in theatres, including Star Wars, this isn’t one to miss.