In 2011, Dalton Trumbo was officially recognized as the screenwriter of Roman Holiday. This was 35 years after his death and nearly 40 years after it was released under the “front” of his friend, Ian McLellan Hunter.
The leader of the so-called “Hollywood Ten”, Trumbo, at the height of his screen-writing career, was blacklisted, due to his membership of the Communist Party, and refusal to co-operate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. For years he worked under pseudonyms or fronts, until finally gaining his first screen credit in years, with Spartacus.
Based on Bruce Cook’s biography of Trumbo, this bio-pic stars Bryan Cranston in the eponymous role, one for which he has been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. Cranston is ably supported by a stellar cast, including Diane Lane as Cleo Trumbo, Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper, Alan Tudyk as McLellan Hunter, Louis CK as Arlen Hird and Elle Fanning as Nikola Trumbo. The ever-reliable John Goodman also makes an appearance in the gutsy, comedic role of Frank King.
But this film moves out of the standard bio-pic genre, and becomes much more a piece about the Hollywood blacklist, with Trumbo sitting at the centre. It doesn’t say anything new, but it does say it in a fresh, well-written, beautifully acted way. A stand-out is Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G Robinson, a man torn between his career and his loyalty to friends, as many were in those dark days of paranoia.
Trumbo manages to tell a dark tale, with humour and clarity, and paint a portrait of a time and place, without either preaching or fetishizing.
Written by John McNamara and directed by Jay Roach, this is one for anyone with an interest in US politics, Hollywood or film history.
And it’s a damn good movie to boot.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 10: 7
Trumbo will be released on DVD & Digital on 16 June 2016.
This review was originally published on 16 February 2016 for the cinema release of Trumbo.