Usually as I dig my way through the “Recently Added” section on Netflix I come across something that looks good, has a great cast, has a decent IMDB write up, has a match, has been recommended by a friend and most importantly my wife and I agree on but…it last 2 hours and 4 minutes. I look at my phone and it says 8.47pm that gives us approximately 2 hours and 13 minutes because our youngest usually starts to stir, about 11.00pm. That’s when my wife will need to head up stairs to bed so he will settle. I don’t mean that to sound chauvinistic, like I strip to the waist and shout “Wife go upstairs. Me cook meat and watch naked girls!” (more often than not it does end up that way.) It’s just when our 18 month old wakes up and I go up to give him a cuddle he takes one look at me and starts screaming like Harvey Dent does in The Dark Knight when he realises Batman has come for him and not Rachel. Thats our nightly routine so the length of a film plays a big part in whether or not we watch something. I tell you this because Trumbo lasts 2 hours and 4 minutes and that fact that we made it through it is nothing short of a miracle and I’m really happy we did.
Trumbo is based on the true story behind that blacklisting of American Communists in the 1950’s film industry. This quite frankly ridiculous way of thinking was ultimately brought to its logical conclusion by the struggle of many people including Dalton Trumbo, one of America’s top screenwriters. There is every chance that you are not familiar with the story so I will stay away from describing the historical aspects of the film because it might ruin the drama knowing how some things pan out in the end and this film is too wonderful to spoil. With a cast like Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren and John Goodman you would expect it to be good and trust me it is.
Cranston is, as usual, superb. I’m going to be honest I could probably watch Bryan Cranston explain how to use a wooden spoon in a four hour long documentary style instructional video and still walk away thinking to myself “Wow! What a guy Bryan Cranston is…I never knew there were so little uses for a wooden spoon?”
Having seen some footage of Dalton Trumbo, Bryan Cranston wouldn’t have been the first person who sprang to mind to play him on the silver screen (not that you ask but I would’ve thought Gary Oldman) but he is spectacular. He has almost a subtle Hunter S Thompson/William Burroughs quality and many times while he was writing in the bath tub I thought about films like “Beat” or “Where the Buffalo Roam” but with less narcotics of course.
Helen Mirren plays Hedda Hopper and you will hate the marrow in her bones. It’s a testament to how well Mirren played the part but there were points when she came on screen I would hiss like I was watching a Cinderella on a school pantomime trip. The arrogance of Hopper and John Wayne (David James Elliott) make you realise that sometimes people are consumed by their “noble” cause and live long enough to become the bad guy. (Two Batman references in one review. I’m doing well.)
Truly that is what this story is about regardless of which side of the divide you stood on. Its a battle between two groups of people who are so invested in the fight that the loose sight of the end goal and the people they are really hurting. If I had to pick out something negative I would say that the film doesn’t really pick up in the dramatics until you pass the (almost) hour mark considering some of the subject matter and some of the dialogue, especially Trumbo’s is sometimes to witty to feel “natural.” They do reference this in the film and I can only assume that Dalton Trumbo was almost “Tom Waitsian” with his witticisms but it felt as if they tried to fit in too many “one liners” and it diminished the impact. That’s me just being really fussy about something that both my wife and I really enjoyed immensely. It’s a powerful film about standing up for what you believe in and the fact that the story is lifted directly from the history books makes Trumbo feel mesmerising at points.
Not only did I learn quite a few things about America’s cinematic and political history I also learned that we if we time it just right and with a bit of luck we can make it through a two hour long film without our domestic bliss being shattered by the pitter patter screaming of an under 2 year old. We love him really.