Trumbo stars the awesome Bryan Cranston as the man himself and the ever stunning Diane Lane (sigh!) as his long-suffering wife and chronicles their adventures during the Black List era of Hollywood, when Reds weren’t just under the bed but controlling Hollywood, and all those in the land of the free who were members of the Communist Party were out to destroy the American way of life.
It’s a fascinating insight into an incredibly intolerant age, with the arguments about free speech not really meeting much response from the “other” side (though getting a whole lot of hate), with “Kikes” being threatened with exposure to bring the studio bosses into line, with movie war heroes lecturing to people who actually were involved in WWII about patriotism, and bubbling in the background, the Civil Rights movement for African Americans.
Helen Mirren leads the opposition, as Hatty, the powerful Hollywood Reporter who, with John Wayne “the Duke” and (in newsreel images) Ronald Reagan at her side, sought to oust all Communists, until ultimately, through people like Trumbo who worked around the restrictions put in place to continue with his Hollywood career, the system of marginalisation fell apart.
With such an incredible cast (including Elle Fanning and Louis CK), all giving wonderful performances (don’t cry Diane!! I love you!!!), it’s a surprise that the film itself has a rather cheap feel to it. The period costumes and sets and the like all feel authentic, but after the jaw-dropping cinematography of The Revenant, the movie feels like it was shot perhaps on video tape, with colours quite bland and the camera holding steady and unimaginatively (though there is nothing wrong with avoiding shaky vision, far from it!).
In the end, the film does feel a bit long, but it is a fascinating insight into the Hollywood lifestyle, and where some of the biggest stars sat when it came to the great Communist divide. Considering the means taken and the scrutiny many in Hollywood suffered, it seems more understandable for me now when I hear about the divisions that still exist from people who remember or lived through that era.
It has to be said though that seeing Dean O’Gorman as Kirk Douglas… well, it was really a bit bizarre.
Verdict: Trumbo is a great movie full of amazing performances and with an intriguing story to tell. Its just a shame that everything around that is fairly average. 7 Roman Holidays out of 10.