“Trumbo” is long but worth it for Bryan Cranston

By Jordan Reynolds

Unknown
Via Vanity Fair

During the 1950s, the Red Scare haunted both extreme nationalists and devout Communists. In the dramatic biopic “Trumbo” directed by Jay Roach, Bryan Cranston stars as a renowned screenwriter, and member of the Communist party, whose belief in the rights of the working class leads him into all kinds of darkness, including prison and a blacklisted position in Hollywood.  

Dalton Trumbo was an acclaimed writer, which would have been acceptable to the general public if he weren’t also a Communist. At the brink of the Cold War, the House Un-American Activities Committee began pursuing suspected Communists in the film industry for allegedly planting bits of propaganda within their work. Eventually coming to be known as the ‘Hollywood Ten,’ Trumbo and his colleagues began a risky fight against what they saw as an attack on their First Amendment rights.  

Their plan to appeal the allegations made against them backfired when the liberal-majority of the Supreme Court disappeared, sending them all to jail for 11 months.  After being released and returning to find he’d been blacklisted from working in Hollywood, Trumbo began writing under various pseudonyms in order to continue feeding his family.

Known widely for his work on Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston is flawless in his depiction of Trumbo.  He’s brooding yet energetic, and portrays the protagonist as such a likeable character that you find yourself rooting for a traitorous ‘Commie’ during the entire film.  Louis C.K. brings a sweet supportive role in his portrayal of Arlen Hird, first distrusting of Trumbo but ultimately admiring the man’s bravery.  Helen Mirren plays Hedda Hopper, a Rita Skeeter-esque gossip columnist whose goal, alongside many other nationalists, was to defeat and destroy any and all Communist threats in America at any cost.  

Elle Fanning randomly shows up midway through the film, as Trumbo’s oldest daughter who seemingly grew 5 years during the short sentence he served in prison.  The timeline of the film was slightly confusing at times.  In addition to the apparent time-jump of his children’s ages, at one point Cranston goes from a full head of brown hair to a receding hairline of grey within a short 30 seconds.

While dry at times, Trumbo does its best to both address the heavy subject matter while finding humor within the situations presented.  Running at a lengthy 124 minutes, it occasionally seems endless, but the ultimate resolution is worth sitting in a theatre for two hours.  

Jordan Reynolds is a Staff Writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com

 

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