Festival Review: Trumbo (2015)


Winning Oscars for his Roman Holiday and The Brave One scripts, Jay Roach’s Trumbo turns Hollywood blacklister Dalton Trumbo into a hero.

The Thin Red Line

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Maybe it’s Hollywood eating itself but it’s certainly meaty. Trumbo is a witty evocation of Hollywood’s least-fine hour – the dark days of the postwar communist witch hunts which led to the blacklisting of scores of screenwriters. This included its highest-earner – Dalton Trumbo, whose lifestyle, despite his political sympathies, earned him the epithet ‘swimming pool socialist’. Bryan Cranston gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the rebel screenwriting genius, defiantly refusing to curb his eloquence or deny his principles in the face of Congress’s commission of enquiry, thus making himself an unemployable pariah. After a jail sentence, he was only able to write scripts under pseudonyms, for which he won two uncredited Oscars. For or against Trumbo in ’50s Hollywood are actors portraying famous names including Edward G Robinson and John Wayne, effectively interleaved with archive footage as the film fades from colour to black and white and back again. And in the ’60s, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger were bravely instrumental in Trumbo’s rehabilitation. Helen Mirren is fabulous in spectacular hats as gossip columnist doyenne Hedda Hopper and John Goodman has a show-stealing turn as schlockmeister Frank King. In Jay Roach’s Trumbo, serious issues are shot through with humour in a behind-the-scenes story of a real-life – and very wily – Spartacus, who did indeed make a difference.

Trumbo is now showing at the London Film Festival

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