Set in 1950's Hollywood, Trumbo tells the true story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was jailed for his Communist views and blacklisted along with some of his colleagues. The film follows the writers and actors' attempts at continuing to work despite everything.
Dalton Trumbo is portrayed as pretty open with his political views, which eventually got him jailed and blacklisted. The film mostly focuses on Trumbo's ghostwriting period and its impact on his friends and family. Bryan Cranston plays Trumbo as very stubborn and, at times insensitive, but ultimately a good man with a huge amount of talent. Indeed, some of Trumbo's most memorable work was created under a pseudonym including Spartacus, Roman Holiday and The Brave One.
Throughout his legal battles, Trumbo clashes with the likes of columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and John Wayne (David James Elliott). After his time in prison, he starts writing B movies for a smaller studio and, financially at least, his life is back on track but he starts to prioritize his work over his family and finds that he can't truly enjoy the recognition his films receive while he is still anonymous.
Bryan Cranston is as good in this role as you'd expect and his Best Actor Oscar nomination was deserved, though arguably he never truly disappears into the role. He is joined by a solid cast with the likes of Michael Stuhlbarg and John Goodman offering reliable support and even Louis C.K. turning in a fine performance. This is a well-told story with a breezy tone and it's better than a lot of biopics, though it often falls into the same traps. There's a sense that this is an extremely simplified version of true events and there's very little room for nuance or anything sharper than broad strokes when it comes to the history, plus Diane Lane's character could have done with being fleshed-out a lot more. Still, Trumbo's story was definitely worth telling, the film itself looks slick and the cast does excellent work throughout.
As far as biopics go, this is a decent one. If you don't know anything about the blacklist days and you enjoy movies, then this will be an informative watch, even if a film like The Front packed a much bigger emotional punch. And even if you're familiar with Hollywood's messy history, Bryan Cranston and the rest of the cast will keep you interested and entertained.
Fair, if uneven.