Trumbo tells an interesting story about the often-unseen darker side of Hollywood in a comedic and politically charged movie.


A biopic based around a blacklisted Hollywood writer is always going to be a difficult film to get right in terms of tone – if you go too much on Hollywood’s side then the film loses its story and tension; however if you go to anti-Hollywood then making and releasing the film could become difficult.

Luckily Trumbo gets the balance just right. It is a film that whilst being politically heavy focuses on intriguing characters and the story of writing movies (at least during the second half). If you’re unaware of Dalton Trumbo (who in this adaptation is played by the excellent Bryan Cranston), he is a screenwriter who was both jailed and blacklisted for being a communist. Being a writer he still managed to get his screenplays created by using either the names of his friends or just made up names, in doing this he ‘won’ two Academy Awards under these names. This obviously made a mockery of the blacklist and Hollywood in general.


The best parts of the film are the parts that focus on Hollywood and the writing of the movies. These parts are witty, dramatic and appealing in equal measure. Seeing classic film stars portrayed outside of films makes for fantastic viewing with ‘American hero’ John Wayne being portrayed almost as a villain being particularly fun to watch.

However when the focus shifts away from the scriptwriting and focuses on the political side of the story the film loses its pizzazz and becomes borderline boring. The courtroom and prison sequences lack any sort of impact as they filmmakers opt to be ambiguous towards Trumbo’s beliefs. The main message of the film is the importance of speech and this comes across strongly. The drama of the situation is lost though as instead of feeling the harshness of how Trumbo is treated for his beliefs we just don’t care. It almost feels too unbiased to any side of the story.


The cast of the film is wonderful and it is filled with great performances all round, with Cranston in particular catching the eye in a dominant performance. It is a wonderful showcase of acting skill to show a man who loves to write so much that he almost loses everything.

Trumbo is a film that is worth watching for the interesting true story but often becomes bogged down by sitting on a political fence.