Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louie CK, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Goodman, David James Elliot, Alan Tudyk, Elle Fanning, Dan Bakkedahl, Roger Bart, Richard Portnow, Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje, Stephen Root, Dean O’Gorman
Directed By: Jay Roach
Well, this is probably the best thing that Jay Roach has ever directed. He cut his teeth on really accessible films like Meet The Parents, the first two Austin Powers films, and The Campaign, but he did also get serious in TV films like Recount and Game Change for HBO. So, he did show us that he had a deeper promise within him. He’s fulfilled his promise with Trumbo. It’s amazing how many “important” films I’ve seen this year, that are about real things that actually happened, yet somehow feel timely in todays current state. Trumbo is one of those films, alongside other works like Bridge Of Spies, Spotlight, and The Big Short. Trumbo resonates louder today, as people stand up and continue to point fingers and assess blame across a wide group of people. A long time ago, 10 men were accused of being something that wasn’t illegal, and they stood up for what they believed in. One of those men was Dalton Trumbo.
Bryan Cranston is spectacular here. It’s a great film to transition him into an acclaimed movie star, following his award winning run on Breaking Bad. Yes, the dad from Malcolm In The Middle is a tremendous actor, one who really worked on getting it right. He really immersed himself in being Dalton Trumbo, from facial ticks, to the way he speaks. It’s a truly transformative performance. It’s like watching an acting masterclass. The film managed to get a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Ensemble, which it rightly deserved, but truly this film rests on the shoulders of Cranston, who carries an already winning film across the finish line. As a standout in the supporting cast, Helen Mirren is perfection as Hedda Hopper, the woman you’ll love to hate. It’s the better of her performances this year, and the one I’d pick for her to be recognized.
I actually really loved the score too. Most times, I find myself not really thinking about the score, but there was something unique about this film, and the choices it made. It felt like a typewriter at times, appropriate given the circumstances. It was a little unhinged, but so was Trumbo. A very different score for a very different film.
I don’t think this film is really a comedy, as some people have billed it. It’s a drama, and it deals with heavy subject matter. This was a dark time in our past, so to say this film is full of laughs is almost disrespectful. Sure, it has its moments. John Goodman got me a couple times, as he is perfectly cast in his role as Frank King. But, aside from a few good quips, this film is definitely a drama. Hopefully the mislabeling won’t hurt its chances at Oscar glory, because in my opinion, it definitely deserves a shot.
The three films I listed earlier are all important because they all reflect a time in our past where we should unanimously be ashamed. Our treatment of our fellow men is a resounding theme this year, from the three films above, to other entries like Room, The Martian, and even films like Love and Mercy and Amy. The idea here is that we should, as a society, be better people. I believe that’s all that Dalton Trumbo was asking for. He believed in America, and what it stands for. In a time when others were losing their way, he stood up for what makes America truly great. His story is told here perfectly by Jay Roach and Bryan Cranston. It’s an excellent legacy left behind for everyone to enjoy.
Absolutely see this film.
FINAL GRADE: A