Trumbo is a biopic of famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who was blacklisted from Hollywood due to his membership in the Communist Party of the USA, and served an eleven-month prison sentence as a result. After his release, he continues to write screenplays under a variety of pseudonyms, with his films even receiving academy awards that he cannot claim. He eventually writes the screenplays to Spartacus and Exodus with full credit given, but the road he travels is fraught with doubt and familial strife.
If a movie is going to be about screenwriting, then it very well ought to be written well itself. While obviously not to the level of some of Trumbo’s own work, Trumbo is fantastically written and kept me engaged throughout. It kept going through the major moments of Trumbo’s life, his rises and falls, without feeling slow or plodding. It was somber, it was heartwarming, and it was even humorous without taking away from the drama.
That humour and drama is delivered well thanks in no small part to Bryan Cranston, whose performance is definitely the main draw to this film. It takes a lot of talent to have a figure talk about a bug-headed alien’s motivations for falling in love with a farmgirl while keeping that figure sympathetic and engaging, but Cranston more than pulls that scene, and every other scene, off. He was absolutely fantastic as Walter White in Breaking Bad, and he is just as good here as he was in that programme. You feel sympathy for him when he is called a traitor, and when his films win awards, you’re just as happy as he is.
That is not to say that the other actors aren’t memorable too. We have Michael Stuhlbarg playing a fine Edward G Robinson, and John Goodman doing a memorable performance as King Brothers Productions founder Frank, getting in amusing interactions with Cranston.
While not entirely historically accurate, Trumbo is still an interesting and enjoyable movie, worth watching for Cranston’s performance alone.