Skip to main content

Sandy Journal

Dan's Review: Free speech, capitalism triumph in "Trumbo"

Nov 25, 2015 04:51PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Bryan Cranston in Trumbo - © 2014 - Bleecker Street.

Trumbo (Bleeker Street)

Rated R for language including some sexual references.

Starring Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alan Tudyk, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Dean O'Gorman, Stephen Root, Roger Bart, David James Elliott, Peter Mackenzie, John Getz, Christian Berkel, Billy Slaughter, Richard Portnow.

Written by John McNamara.

Directed by Jay Roach.



Politics and entertainment have never mixed very well. If your favorite artist or movies align with your political beliefs, then you usually don’t have much trouble. If they don’t, then things can get messy. Most people try to walk the high road and put on their best “Voltaire” face, but all too often, people in power try to silence their foes rather than let the marketplace of ideas decide the best ways to govern. Such is the backdrop for Trumbo, the (mostly) true story of a famed Hollywood screenwriter and his battle with the “Blacklist.”

Bryan Cranston stars as the real-life Dalton Trumbo, a man who wrote several successful screenplays for movies in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Trumbo’s success comes to a halt when the House Un-American Activities Committee, searching out communists among the folks who make movies, investigates him and other Hollywood big shots. Trumbo, an avowed communist and work’s rights advocate, refuses to cooperate with Congress, and goes to jail for contempt when he refuses to “rat out” his comrades.

Trumbo leaves his wife Cleo (Diane Lane) behind to take care of the family, including their daughter Mitzi (Elle Fanning). Upon his release from prison, Trumbo cannot find work due to the Blacklist, and begins writing screenplays under pseudonyms or having other screenwriters submit his work under their names. His Roman Holiday script even won an Academy Award, under the name of his friend Ian McClellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk).

His success as a writer in hiding culminates with another Academy Award for The Brave One, written under the pseudonym Robert Rich. Soon after, Trumbo is approached for screenwriting help from Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman), who is producing and starring in a little film called Spartacus. Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) shows up at around the same time asking for similar help in adapting a screenplay for the film Exodus.

Trumbo’s opponents soon see the writing on the wall, including John Wayne (David James Elliott) and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren).

Trumbo is a fine movie about an evil practice. I’m not talking about communism, but censorship and the public shaming of individuals who so not possess popular opinions about government or politics. Sadly, the same tactics live on today, mostly on our college campuses.

Cranston’s performance is exceptional in the title role, and his supporting cast shines through, including scene-stealers John Goodman, Helen Mirren and Louis C.K.

Screenwriter John McNamara had a tough job in penning a script about screenwriters that’s almost as sharp-witted as Trumbo himself.

Trumbo also shows how one communist beat the blacklist era by manipulating the free market. Maybe it’s an unintended message, but irony isn’t lost on me.

Trumbo Trailer