Director: Jay Roach
Writer: John McNamara
Based on: Bruce Alexander Cook‘s biography of Dalton Trumbo
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Alan Tudyk, Louis C.K., Sean Bridgers, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Dean O’Gorman, Christian Berkel
Seen on: 17.3.2016
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is an immensely successful screen writer and at the height of his career – when his affiliation with the Communist Party means that he gets caught up in a political witch hunt and is finally imprisoned and put on a blacklist. And he’s not the only one affected – his family suffers, too, as do quite a few colleagues who also get branded as communists. Unable to work officially, he devises a plan how he and his colleagues may ensure their livelihoods.
Trumbo is pretty much how you’d expect it. It’s expertly crafted and tells an interesting story very well. But it plays everything so safe, it’s hard to get excited about it.
Trumbo seems to have been a dazzling personality – or at least the film and Cranston make him shine and the short historical footage we see of him during the credits does confirm that portrayal. The Trumbo in this film, in any case, was quite something and gets to be as complex as you could possibly wish a character to be. He is in turns inspiring, assholeish, funny, emotional – and he is always driven.
The same can be said about the script and the film in general and the casting was certainly inspired – with special mentions, apart from Cranston, Mirren and Fanning going to Dean O’Gorman who looks so much like Kirk Douglas, it’s almost creepy; and Michael Stuhlbarg who manages to snatch more of the movie from under Cranston’s ubiquity than anybody else. I certainly enjoyed it and there is practically nothing that I can complain about [maybe one thing, I would have liked to see a little more of Trumbo’s relationship with his wife Cleo (Diane Lane), instead of the almost exclusive focus on their daughter Niki (Elle Fanning)].
And still I didn’t fall in love with the film. I didn’t get excited about it. I was with the story the entire time and then I went out of the cinema and it was pretty much gone, left behind where I saw it. It simply had barely any staying power. That is not what I expected and I don’t think it should have happened with a film that tells such an emotional story that is so full of injustices and perseverance.
The only theory I could come up with why that happened is that the film is so very polished, so careful not to do anything risky and so clear in showing who the good guys are and who the bad guys are that there were no edges, cracks or rough spots at all. And yes, they sometimes leave abrasions and sometimes they should have been whittled down or plastered over. But they also give you grip and make it possible to hold on. To stretch that metaphor to its breaking point: I might hit my head on a stone wall, I might even fall when I try to climb it. But it’s damn impossible to climb a polished metal ball – you can look at it, think it’s shiny and then move on, nothing more. And that’s what Trumbo was to me.