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Film Review

The luckiest unlucky guy

12/2/2015

How do you get back at an industry that’s taken everything from you? You show it that it needs you more than you need it. But doing so may require more sacrifices than you ever thought you could make. Such is the tail of “Trumbo.”

Directed by Jay Roach and written by John McNamara, “Trumbo” is a biographical drama/comedy depicting the real life struggles and successes of one of Hollywood’s most talented screenwriters, Dalton Trumbo.

“Trumbo” 124 minutes Rated R Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren

“Trumbo”
124 minutes
Rated R
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren

It’s the late 1940s after WWII, and the country is in the midst of war panic again. We see the hysteria over the “red menace” represented by Soviet-style communism led the U.S. Congress to establish the House Un-American Activities Committee, which interrogated members of the Hollywood creative community (and other industries) for alleged communist sympathies, requiring them to name others with “questionable” political affiliations.

We see the Hollywood Ten — a group of screenwriters and directors cited for contempt of Congress who actually went to prison rather than compromise their principles or inform on their friends — as heroes fighting for the little guy, when half a century ago we would have considered their thoughts and actions treason.

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Political affiliation aside, audiences will have trouble denying they rooted for Trumbo and the Hollywood Ten. The film manages to do this by keeping the focus on First Amendment rights as opposed to shifting political ideologies. Some might have trouble rooting for a communist protagonist, but make him a megaphone for the Bill of Rights and that’s something Americans will love.

Most of “Trumbo” is comedic, with sprinkles of poignancy throughout. Brian Cranston nails the role from stance to cadence to that magnificent moustache. He’s simultaneously the rebel writer and the devoted family man. Louis C.K. brings a fair amount of humor, though many of his lines are delivered like Louis, which occasionally breaks the scene.

Helen Mirren is a worthy antagonist to Trumbo as Hedda Hopper, gossip writer and major Hollywood influence who very effectively displays the fear and anger that result from war.

Through it all, “Trumbo” delivers a fun film about a piece of American history many in power may wish to be forgotten. Even during the moments where “Trumbo” drags, a laugh is around the corner with this impressive gathering of actors and characters. Faux cameos by Kirk Douglas and John Wayne add to the era’s legend, as these larger-than-life characters who almost seem to only exist on screen are presented when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Hollywood is in the business of happy endings, but often times those are kept to the silver screen. “Trumbo” shows one of Hollywood’s darkest moments as well as what happens when good people stand up for what is right. No matter how you feel about the idiom, Dalton Trumbo demonstrated throughout his life that the pen will always be mightier than the sword. CV

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