STORY: The socio-political climate post World War 2 in the US was rife with anti-communist sentiment. Any person displaying a hint of socialist or even vaguely Marxist leanings, for whatever reason, would land into trouble. No one was exempt. Top Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) was a victim of the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt for being outspoken about his thoughts about labour rights. This film tells his story.
REVIEW: There really is only one way to say this -Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad fame) owns this film. And it’s easy to see why he is nominated for an Oscar for playing the controversial American screenwriter who always stood up for what he believed in, despite being vilified, isolated and even imprisoned. At the height of the Cold War, patriotism in the US was synonymous with anti-Soviet paranoia. The film clearly depicts that absolutely no American – not even former soldiers who fought for their country – were above suspicion of being communist sympathizers.
Trumbo is targeted for espousing the Socialist cause in his movies. Realising that films are a powerful medium for getting ideas – whether subliminal or blatant – across to the public, he is put on what was known as the Hollywood Blacklist, whereby he would be denied any kind of work. Producers and directors boycott him, despite his obvious brilliance. He suffered the ignominy of watching two of his films – Roman Holiday and The Brave One – win Oscars without his name being mentioned in the credits. He does ultimately get his due though, as this is a real-life story set to screen.
While the period detailing is great, the film does have a few historical inaccuracies. And yes, the pace can be a bit slow at times but the emotional intensity of the film never sags. And John McNamara’s script saves the day. While the rest of the cast, despite their caliber, are somewhat second fiddle (except for Mirren’s colourful portrayal of a gossip columnist named Hedda Hopper), this is essentially Cranston’s gig all the way. The last scene of the film alone is worth the ticket price.