London Film Festival Review: Bryan Cranston in Jay Roach's 'Trumbo'
by Amanda Keats
October 13, 2015
Whether you know him as the dad from "Malcolm in the Middle" or as Walter White, there's no denying the chameleon-like acting skills of Bryan Cranston. In Trumbo directed by Jay Roach, he plays the titular character with an outlandish caricature-style panache that anyone else could so easily have turned into pure farce. Thanks to Cranston, however, Trumbo manages to come across as a man driven by the injustice surrounding him. His Trumbo is annoyingly charming and doggedly determined, and his sometimes quietly powerful, sometimes manic and heart-breaking, take on the man is surely one that will spark award interest.
I was immediately drawn in because this is not a perfect man by any stretch. He provokes when some would argue that he should be quiet and he forces his family into an uncomfortable position time and again because he cannot stop doing what he's doing, writing, even though it's claimed he's a communist.
There are so many elements to this movie that it's difficult to see exactly what the target audience is. At first, the movie lures you in with all the old-school Hollywood glamour. Then, this quickly turns sour as Hollywood turns on the screenwriters they have so easily decided warrant ostracizing. There's a real sense of movie community at the outset which makes what comes next all the more tragic and infuriating. The movie is riddled with an injustice that nobody seems able to fight. You just want to scream at some of these people to stop being so stupid. If it weren't based in reality then you might even think it was poor writing – because things like this just don't happen. People don't get thrown in jail for standing up for workers' rights, peacefully and without any criminal action. Except, of course, that they do.
Despite the horrible things taking place throughout the movie, there is also a lighter tone that dances throughout which somehow never lessens the severity of what is happening. One of the most hilarious and surprising elements of the movie is the many instances where fairly unknown actors portray well-known actors of the era such as Kirk Douglas (played by Dean O'Gorman) and John Wayne (played by David James Elliott), especially when clips of their movies are shown with the new actors doing it exactly the way it was done first time around. A true nod to the movie geeks among us!
As someone who has been writing stories for most of my life, I connected immediately with Trumbo (based on Bruce Cook's book of the same name), especially as the stories I write often carry themes of social divide and expectations. I'd like to think I'm free to express myself without fear of persecution but I once had the audacity to write an editorial on the possibility of a female Doctor Who and was accused of shoving my "feminist agenda" down people's throats – so it doesn't seem too much of a stretch.
Ultimately, this is a story that needs to be told and seen by audiences, not just for the contribution Trumbo made to cinema but for the sheer ease with which this small group of people were able to manipulate the masses into fearing a group of writers who wanted nothing but fair wages for movie crews. Trumbo may be a story from decades ago but the theme still resonates so easily today.
Amanda's London 2015 Rating: 8 out of 10
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