HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:85
There are many things great about our country, and many things that we look back upon and think “wow that probably shouldn’t have happened”. So many people have gotten hurt, either intentionally or not, due to an insatiable desire for retribution and safety. I am a firm believer that safety is a great thing, but not when it comes at the cost of harming other people, or in giving up freedoms to do so. We put Japanese in internment camps in the U.S. during World War II, refused Black skinned people the right to vote or even be equal. Then there was the famous blacklist era of the 40s and 50s where everyone and their mother was terrified of communism invading the United States of America. So much so that we had people in film and journalism blacklisting people who had joined the communist part of America or even SUSPECTED communists. Hedda Hopper (played by Helen Mirren in the film) was famous for her role as a pop culture journalist who smeared many a name in Hollywood, including Charlie Chaplin, Dalton Trumbo and many others.
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was on top of the world. He was one of the best screen writers in Hollywood and he was making money hand over fist. The problem was that not many people were very fond of him when it came out that he was part of the communist party. After that people weren’t too happy to work with him and then it became almost IMPOSSIBLE to work once Hedda Hopper, queen journalist of the film world decided to make it her personal mission to destroy his life and everyone else’s who was associated with the man. Using her immense public pressure she forced the head of MGM studios to fire Trumbo and put out an industry wide blacklist on him and the other 9 popular communist screen writers who were in his cadre.
Doing thus sparked a war between Trumbo and the U.S. Un-American task force that was involved in the McCarthy age commie witch hunts. Not taking this whole “war” laying down, Trumbo and his compatriots appealed as long as they could, before finally having Trumbo alone thrown into jail for contempt of Congress during his monkey trials. Upon leaving jail, Dalton Trumbo was not a broken man, but rather an even cagier one. Refusing to just take what life had given him, he went to work for Frank King at King Productions (played by John Goodman) where he pumped out schlocky C rated film after C rated film under an assumed name. Ironically making the blacklist into a joke as the very blacklisted people were getting work! This may have gone on forever until one fateful day a young Kirk Douglass came to Trumbo’s home and offered to hire him for a little picture that may gain him some true success in the public eye. A little film called “Spartacus”.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=65170[/img]Bryan Cranston is just one of those actors that you can’t help but love no matter the role. He was fantastic as Hal in “Malcolm in the Middle” (a TV show that has been long robbed of a home video release) and has since broken into international fame after playing the lead character on “Breaking Bad”. I have loved him in every film he’s even been in, even if it’s only for a bit part. He has an insanely likeable demeanor and seems to sink deeply into every character that he plays, making them his very own. Here he lives and breathes Dalton Trumbo. Taking on his mannerisms, his quirks, his vocal inflections and every bit about the eccentric screen writer. By the end of the film you really empathize with everything the man endured and root for him, even if you don’t agree with his politics at all.
“Trumbo” is a good film, and in many ways a great film. The first act is the real stumbling block though, with setting up the events for later in the film. For the first 45-55 minutes the politics of the movie take up the center stage and after a while it feels rather like pandering. We know why he was blacklisted and what for, but it felt so drawn out that by the time he gets out of jail we’re actually relieved that the political hearings and inquiries are over with. However, past that 55 (ish) minute mark the movie takes on a much more interesting feel. Now we’re privy to the struggles of HOW he broke the blacklist in all effectuality. His ghost writing and dealings with Frank King as the highlight of the movie. So much so that I was more waiting for his interactions with the overweight old fashioned “Cannon Studios” type producer than the rest of the interactions!
In a drama like this the characters really make or break the movie. Cranston was phenomenal as always, but his surrounding co-stars did an amazing job at keeping up with him. I usually hate Louis C.K., but his role as Arlin was incredibly well done, and Alan Tudyck as the famed Ian McLellan Hunter made the perfect pair for the friends. Diane Liane did her normal good job, but Helen Mirren really stood out as the vindictive and spiteful Hedda Hopper. She just oozed sophisticated evil in every line she spoke. Whether she was making fun of Trumbo or outing his supposed friends to him over a drink, she sounded so cool, so calm, and so perfectly Cruella Deville.
Rated R for language including some sexual references
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=65178[/img]“Trumbo” is nothing if not a stunner in terms of picture quality. Shot 100% digitally it shines on all fronts. Razor sharp picture, tactfully done stylistic color grading and wonderful colors saturate every screen. Fine detail abounds at every corner, showing off every hair on Dalton Trumbo’s exquisite mustache and the wrinkles in the immaculate suits worn by Alan Tudyck and Bryan Cranston’s suit. Backgrounds look amazing as they seem to lose no detail compared to the close ups and there is NO shortage of detail in close ups. Blacks are deep and inky and colors warm and inviting. The greens of Trumbo’s estate beautiful and multi textured, with wonderful contrast levels to boot. To put it simply, “Trumbo” is an AMAZING looking image with no flaws that I could find to my eyes, and I really looked too. NO artifacting, no banding, of compression issues. Simply flawless.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=65186[/img]“Trumbo” is no slouch in the audio department either. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a stunner for sure, with an immersive experience that totally brings the viewer back in times to a more “jazzy” themed era. The dialog is crisp, clean as a whistle and cheerful at all times. The surrounds are given a surprising amount of activity considering the drama centric nature of the film. Complete with the sounds of the jazzy score, a crashing banging film in the background at several points, as well as the general hullabaloo of upscale party. There is a pinpoint precision nature to the sounds that are well nuanced and gives each sound a very distinctive tone. LFE is tight and omnipresent, adding some well needed low end to certain parts of the track, while keeping a subtle ambiance to its presence when not called upon.
• Who Is Trumbo?
• Bryan Cranston Becomes Trumbo
“Trumbo” is a fun film that has a few hiccups during the first act to keep it from becoming a fantastic one. Bryan Cranston is mesmerizing as Dalton Trumbo and the rest of the cast do wonders for what could have been a very dry and boring film. Once you get past the boring political meanderings of the first 50 minutes the film really picks up and gets a lot more interesting. The film did a great job at taking a big political movement and condensing it down to a human level. Giving a man with a very unpopular political point of view back then (and still so today to a certain extent) and make you sympathize with the struggle he endured and the persecution imposed on him by people willing to take justice into their own hands (or so they think). Audio and video are impressive to say the least and while the extras are VERY sparse, I still give the movie a solid recommended status.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Diane Lane
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: John McNamara, Bruce Cook (Book)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 125 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 9th 2016
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