I’m not generally a big fan of biopics, but I consider Trumbo, the story of Dalton Trumbo, the film writer blacklisted as a communist, to be an excellent film.
It stars Bryon Cranston, who is successful not just because his portrayal is entirely believable but also because his performance never once reminds the audience of his role in Breaking Bad (a series I abandoned after the second season). Diane Lane plays Cleo Trumbo, Helen Mirren is perfect as a most evil Hedda Hopper, John Goodman has one of the best moments in the film as Frank King and comic Louis C.K. plays Arlin Hird.
Trumbo demonstrates how Americans panicked in their fear of the red menace taking over America by infiltrating its culture. How many people were blacklisted, unable to work? How many people “testified”, giving up lists of names, betraying their friends, betraying good people, guilty only of living free in America. How many people were jailed? How many brilliant careers ruined?
The film is about one man who stood on principle and subverted the forces keeping him down. It’s quirky and funny and at times emotionally charged. Cranston’s performance as the eccentric Dalton Trumbo, writing away in a bathtub, chainsmoking, whiskey drinking, pill-popping, is Oscar bait for sure, and I’d say he’s in the running for a best actor nod.
As with all films based in history, the question which comes up is, what does it tell us about our world today? Trumbo shows us what happens when people over-react in fear, and just how terrifying that can get – and it does it featuring characters that are Hollywood heros. I wonder if the film was intended to be a wake-up call?