Review: Cranston roars as screenwriter in ‘Trumbo’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
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Bryan Cranston takes a king-size bite out of his role in “Trumbo,” his meatiest part since “Breaking Bad,” in which he stars as controversial screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo is a different animal than Walter White, but Cranston brings a similar ferocity to the role, playing him as a larger-than-life figure inside an everyman’s body. Director Jay Roach brings the same touch he did to HBO’s drama “Game Change,” highlighting laughs and downplaying what could be heavy-handed material. He makes it a fun, highly watchable film.

Trumbo was a successful writer in the 1930s and 1940s who was blacklisted by Hollywood after joining the Communist Party. That didn’t slow his production, only his recognition for his work, and, under a pseudonym, he went on to pen a pair of Oscar-winning screenplays for which he couldn’t claim credit.

Far from warm and cuddly, “Trumbo” paints its subject as a cantankerous spirit and obsessive worker, holing up in his bathtub and banging out scripts while barking at his family to leave him alone (Diane Lane plays his wife, and Elle Fanning is one of his three children).

A strong supporting cast is highlighted by John Goodman, who plays a head of a sleazeball Z-picture studio, and Louis C.K. as a fellow blacklisted screenwriter. And as a savage gossip columnist, Helen Mirren does cutthroat work with small screen time.

There are parallels to today’s political climate, and Roach makes Trumbo a crusader for truth, despite his thorny edges. He’s like a character Trumbo may have written in one of his own films.



Rated R: for language including some sexual references

Running time: 124 minutes

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