It’s 1947, and after the Nazis have been defeated, a new enemy has been found lurking in America’s shadows: communism. Just like in the old times in Salem, another type of witch hunt begins. Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), one of Hollywood’s top writers, is among the victims. After someone calls him “traitor” in public, he is questioned by his little daughter. Then, he explains to her what he believes communism is: to share what you have with someone who has nothing.
Trumbo and others are subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Commitee, accused of conspiracy “to corrupt the democratic values of the nation and influence the overthrow of the government”. They refuse to answer incriminating and unfair questions, and they are charged with contempt of Congress, thereby becoming the infamous Hollywood Ten.
One day in prison, Trumbo encounters the same man who led the charges against him. This man had been sent to jail for tax-evasion. Trumbo’s short exchange of words with this guy is one of the best scenes in this film.
Many characters who give life to this story are worth mentioning: The King Brothers (John Goodman and Stephen Root), the film producers who stood up for the disgraced writer and for whom Trumbo wrote B-type fantasy-adventure movies. John Wayne (David James Elliot), who with entertainment columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) was Trumbo’s rabid enemy. Also, his closest friends: Arlen Hird (Louis C.K) who stood by him even when disagreeing, and Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg) who capitulated to Congress, becoming in this way another kind of victim. Diane Lane as Cleo Trumbo, the writer’s gentle and loyal wife adds a needed delicate touch to this well assembled cast.
Bryan Cranston’s performance is one of his best. He vividly incarnated this writer whose political beliefs caused him years in prison and strained his family life.
This story based on the book by John McNamara, directed by Jay Roach in 2015, is a testament to one of the greatest screenwriters in the history of cinema. Dalton Trumbo emerged from prison more determined to write than ever. He is responsible for the writing in: Exodus (1960), Spartacus (1960), Hawaii (1966), Papillon (1973), Executive Action (1973) among the most important ones.
See also with Brian Cranston: Last Flag Flying (2017),Wakefield (2016), The Infiltrator (2016).