Trumbo movie review


  • Jay Roach


  • Bryan Cranston
  • Diane Lane
  • Helen Mirren
  • Louis C.K.
  • Roger Bart
  • John Goodman
  • Rated: R

Bryan Cranston plays the title character and legendary Oscar winning screenwriter in “Trumbo” which picks up with the lives of the protagonists just as the Red Scare is starting to pick up.

The fear of communism is on full display in the movie and one of the targets of that fear is Dalton Trumbo as well as other Hollywood writers. The film documents this struggle with the Red Scare, mainly through Trumbo’s perspective, featuring how they had to go to jail and were even blacklisted from working in the film industry.

It’s surprising that a film based on a historic screenwriter would have such a simple script, but such is life. Combined with the direction of Jay Roach, who’s likely known more for his comedic films, “Trumbo” just feels too simple. The movie comes off as a highlight reel of Trumbo’s life, showing various things that occurred during the Red Scare, without digging into much depth.

The film simply feels unconvincing, with multiple scenes coming off as something more suited for a TV movie.

In a way, the film is reminiscent of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” a movie that featured a great performance but spent too much time just showing every thing that happened chronologically without digging any further. It’s as if the movie wanted to be two things, a politically charged film with a message and a Hollywood story about the industry. It unfortunately never really finds that balance.

The biggest strength in “Trumbo” is its stellar, veteran cast, such as Golden Globe winner Bryan Cranston and Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Per usual, Cranston absolutely commands the screen in every scene he appears in. He immerses himself in the role and believably becomes the famous screenwriter. The same can be said about the supporting cast, Mirren, Lane along with John Goodman and Louis C.K. are all very strong in the picture.

Once again, though, the problem comes from its script and direction. There are just a few scenes here and there which feature moments of dialogue by these characters which comes across more as rousing, but unconvincing political speeches and less like believable discussions on important topics.

“Trumbo” is a film that does just enough to at least be an interesting picture and combined with its all-star cast, it is certainly a watchable movie. The problem lies in the fact that the film could have been much stronger had it been given some more teeth. 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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