Bryan Cranston plays Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screenwriter who was a member of the Communist Party of the USA in the 1950s. Along with his fellow industry comrades, he became persecuted by the staunchly anti-Soviet American film industry, leaving him imprisoned and blacklisted from filmmaking.
Despite this extraordinary oppression of creative freedom, Trumbo struggles to resonate emotionally, perhaps unsurprisingly considering director Jay Roach’s resumé, filled with comedies from Austin Powers to Meet the Parents, an unlikely choice for a balky drama which ends up feeling particularly lightweight. Louis C.K. unexpectedly pops up as one of Trumbo’s comrades and comes closest to giving some meaning to the events, but unfortunately he disappears halfway through the film without much explanation. Trumbo has all the elements of award season fodder: it’s a biopic about an oppressed minority, it stars a universally acclaimed lead actor (Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston) and it’s all about the history of Hollywood (specifically, the Oscars). Every award season has to have that one film about the film industry vying for top prizes. Thankfully, it’s only really Cranston who seems to have accrued nominations, and even that seems a bit of a stretch. For all his grumbling and crankiness, the performance does feel a bit too mannered and intentional, with the whole film lacking substance.
Undoubtedly these writers suffered, both emotionally and financially from their restriction of freedom but the film lacks intensity and quite frankly becomes tiring. I wanted to feel more for these characters, it’s a film which should elicit strong emotions but in the end the most challenging part about it is staying awake.
Review by David Rank
Trumbo is out now in the UK. Rating 15 (UK). Running time 124 mins.