The bathtub writer. He would sit in a tub for hours because of a bad back and write in marathon sessions that lasted days. He could churn out a polished draft in under a week. Dalton Trumbo is one of the greatest writers of all-time. When he won his first couple Oscars, the general public didn't know he had won because they were awarded to pseudonyms since Trumbo was on the Blacklist as a communist. It wasn't a fake charge. He really was an unabashed communist. He was also the richest writer in the world during his day, a contradiction that played to Trumbo's advantage in real life and explored in this move.
This film is a brilliant portrayal of Trumbo's fight against Washington and its self-created Red Scare. America owes a lot to Trumbo because it was Trumbo who instigated the political push back against the Blacklist, an effort that put him in prison for a year - right along side the Congressman who helped send him there. The Congressman later being found guilty of tax fraud.
If you don't know what the Blacklist is, let me remind you. It often refers to Hollywood but it was more than that because it was used against everyday people, everywhere. If you were a communist, or suspected sympathizer, had ever attended a questionable meeting or read the wrong material or just knew the wrong person, then the FBI would investigate you. If you wanted to keep working, you were required to name other people in front of official panels, for Hollywood it was a Congressional Panel broadcast live everywhere. If you refused, you were ruined. No one would hire you. You would lose your job, your home. Your friends were no longer your friends because just by knowing you, they too were implicated. Hundreds of thousands of lives were destroyed in this fashion. Families torn apart. People committed suicide under the pressure. Others rotted in jail cells.
When Trumbo got out of jail he continued his fight. He took other award-winning movie writers, artists, then found a low budget production company and using fake names began churning out scripts. Trumbo helped support the other writers both with work and financially. His family got involved, secretly running scripts around town and operating a fake phone bank. This movie covers all that. It exposes one of America's darkest chapters. One that should be hammered away in every school in the country so it doesn't get repeated, which even as I write this, there are people out there advocating a return to these practices.
This movie probably would've got my vote for picture of the year. Cranston was off the chart as Trumbo. A surprising performance was put in by Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson. An unflattering side is revealed about Robinson in this movie but there is a realization, as Trumbo came to discover, that in the situations people naturally react for self-preservation, and that in the end it is best to forgive and not let the guilt or resentment serve as a noose of judgement.
John Goodman has a great part as the uncouth low budget producer. Diane Lane keeps Trumbo on course as his wife. Helen Mirren as Heddy Hopper reminded me of so many current correspondents, that it made me realize how cable television news survives. .
Two other big notables in this cast. David James Elliot as John Wayne carried forth an ugly side of Wayne that you read about but rarely has made mention on the big screen in the past. The moment Trumbo reminds Wayne in a public setting, that Trumbo and the other blacklisted writers had all seen combat but Wayne never had, well, it is classic. Dean O'Gorman as Kirk Douglas - it was Douglas who gave the industry and D.C. the finger (and risked his career) by putting Trumbo's name on Spartacus in spite of the boycott - captures Douglas' persona perfectly.
This was a thrilling, enlightening, inspirational movie about what it means to stand up for your rights, for freedom, in the face of publicly accepted tyranny. This movie is a must see. Definitely Cranston's best performance to date. Wonderful script. Beautifully directed and the cast absolutely gelled. Rent it now! 5 by 5 on the rating scale!