A wonderful film by the name of Trumbo popped onto my radar not too long ago. I was mainly drawn to it because of its astounding cast, but even more impressive was the fact that it was directed by Jay Roach. A director I’m very familiar with but not one that I took very seriously up until now, Roach made the two comedy franchises that I absolutely adored as a teen; Austin Powers and Meet The Parents. But after watching Trumbo I feel like Roach has been holding back some real dramatic talent behind his flair for humor. Granted, Trumbo is quite funny, Louis C.K.’s bits are especially uproarious, and if I had to designate a genre it would be dramedy, (a drama/comedy hybrid film term that I swear I didn’t just make up) but that doesn’t take away from the gravitas of the film. The acting in this film was exceptional, the chemistry between the actors was great and the dialogue was quotable at every turn. The writer John McNamara brought his A game and everything just blended together nicely.
Trumbo is a movie set in 1947 chronicling the life and times of American screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Dalton was a communist and tried to lobby the U.S. government for political reform, but instead was met with the animosity of the United States Congress. I previously knew nothing of Dalton Trumbo but after watching the dramatization of his struggle for rights, I have become a fan. Notably I learned that Trumbo was the screenwriter who wrote the original Spartacus which was recently remade into a series from Starz (I am a huge Spartacus fan) which made me love him even more. Nevertheless Trumbo depicts a man raging against the hollywood and government machine, slowly alienating his family and consuming his life with spite. Because of the Cold War tension and the fear of radical thinking, Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted from working in Hollywood due to his belief in Communism. Which leads us to Trumbo’s bold decision to write under multiple aliases in order to exploit a loophole set by congress.
Bryan Cranston, of course, is spectacular, as he brings every nuance available to the forefront of his portrayal of Dalton Trumbo. John Goodman is intimidating and visceral as usual, and would give me an unsettling feeling whenever he was in frame. David James Elliot(the guy from J.A.G.) as John Wayne left me in shock, the resemblance he shares with the Duke is remarkable, right down to the tone of voice, and Louis C.K.—although his presence was jarring at first—surprisingly keeps up with with the cast quite well. I’ve always been a big fan of C.K.’s stand up comedy and to see him perform so well with jokes but also by playing a character with a lot of depth is refreshing. A brief yet exquisite performance from Alan Tudyk was also really great to see.
The presentation of the film is nothing special, though. Cinematography is fairly generic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pragmatism for a grounded film like this is common, but that’s just it: it’s common and therefore played out to a certain extent. The score is fitting to the content of the film, utilizing the sound of the era to its advantage in the music. Yet, overall the presentation lacked genius. It isn’t bad by any means but it also doesn’t stand out at all.
In short, my expectations going in to this movie were low and I must say they’ve been more than exceeded. If period pieces, Bryan Cranston, true stories, and comedy are your thing, then do yourself a favour and give Trumbo a watch.