There is so much about the subject matter in this movie that is intriguing yet duly unexplored. Cranston has played many seminal characters in his career and his portrayal of Trumbo is no exception but even his superb performance doesn’t redeem the problems with the film. The first half is difficult to sit through as it establishes his storied failure before he takes it upon himself to change the way the film industry regulates itself. Trumbo and his fellow artists are viewed unfavorably by the majority of Americans, so much so that they view the admission of their Communist beliefs as reason enough to be imprisoned. As a filmmaker, Trumbo insists that any artist in this country has the right to challenge conventional wisdom but he faces opposition from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and actor John Wayne (David James Elliot). Louis C.K. plays a pivotal role as one of Trumbo’s comrades, Arlen Hird, and does a great job as the comic relief and occasional straight man against Trumbo’s irrational demeanor.
Eventually, the story hits its stride and evolves from the tale of one man’s struggle to one that shows an entire industry of writers who are crippled from speaking out for what they believe in. We see Trumbo’s energies directed toward ruining the credibility of the blacklist by coercing established screenwriters to use his screenplays to infiltrate Hollywood’s monitored operation. It is fascinating to watch the man produce masterful works like Roman Holiday and Spartacus and then pass them off as second rate scripts to other writers. Unfortunately, Trumbo suffers from the bland family drama that is brought about by this obsessive mission. Trumbo begins feuding with his loved ones and I didn’t care for the sudden change from espionage to soap opera-like drama that was projected on the big screen.
I have mixed feelings about this film but it delivers in ways you’ll have to see for yourself to appreciate. Trumbo preaches the importance of sticking to your political beliefs despite the prevailing climate you find yourself in. If nothing itself, it serves as a reminder that this country is in a constant state of change but there will always be individuals who dare to stand up for what’s right and not bow down to the societal pressure of taking the path of least resistance.