Trumbo is based in the era of the 50s and the 60s when Hollywood was under momentous transformation. As Dickens would say – “It was the age of foolishness; it was the age of wisdom.” Movie-makers were bold and experimentative as if determined to showcase a vision of the future to the world audience. This was a time when cult movies like Psycho, The Graduate, The Good The Bad & The Ugly, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc. were being made. Each genre was awash with tidal waves of creativity thanks to directors like Kubrick and Hitchcock among others. Jay Roach accurately captures the look and videography of that time, interspersing scenes with actual footage from 60s Hollywood projecting an extremely authentic visage to the production. It was indeed a golden era for Hollywood.
However, this was also the time when America was deep into the infamous cold war with Russia. There was strong hatred brewing among the general public about the Communist philosophy and the people who practised it. Now that we have set the context, let us come down to the man whose prolific work inspired this biopic. Dalton Trumbo, played by Bryan Cranston (or Walter White if you may), was a brilliant screenwriter who was one of the legendary Hollywood Ten, a group of ace writers who time after time have produced magnificent film-works. He was also an ardent believer of Communism which he publicly acknowledged throughout his career.
Although the Film Fraternity was known to play with progressive ideas, there was still a faction within the community which was staunchly anti-communist and charged Trumbo for allegedly spreading Communist propaganda through his work. Trumbo being an extremely influential writer could easily have taken advantage of his position but he was a man who kept his political ideologies separate from his art. Through an astute understanding of the character, Cranston brings forward a strong commitment to Trumbo who was willing to give away everything for what he believed in. It was not so much about Communism as it was about the constitutional right of a citizen to have his own principles and ideologies. As a strong stand to John Wayne’s taunts directed towards him about his contribution to the nation, Trumbo in a very memorable dialogue says – “If you’re gonna talk about World War II as if you personally won it, let’s be clear where you were stationed – on a film set, shooting blanks, wearing makeup, and if you’re going to hit me, I’d like to take off my glasses”. Playing a character with equal parts eccentricity and equal parts genius comes effortlessly to Cranston as we have seen in the cult series Breaking Bad. He has immaculately represented Trumbo down to his mannerisms and the way he grabs your attention through pure conviction.
Roach has entered an entirely new dimension as compared to his earlier, purely commercial, subjects through the Austin Powers series and the blatant satire in Borat. He has a knack of portraying endearing characters who are hopelessly stuck in their own beliefs and ideals. They are the ones you would love to disagree with and yet feel the utmost respect for. We would love to see more biographical treatments coming from JR. Having said that, we would also be interested to see which genre he explores next.
As Trumbo would say – “What the imagination can’t conjure, reality delivers with a shrug”.
Best Actor: Cranston delivers an earnest depiction of a man who was ostracised from his career for his beliefs. From the characteristic glint in his eye when he was writing, to the frustration when he started losing his respect, his work and his reputation was brilliantly portrayed by Cranston. Although it was extremely hard for us to see him as anyone other than Heisenberg, he succeeded in bringing Trumbo to the forefront of our culture, thus becoming him.
gobblpoint: Watch it not just for Cranston but also for one of the most influential untold stories of Hollywood and its evolution to what it is today.
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