We all know and love the Bryan Cranston who made Breaking Bad, what is, arguably the greatest thing to ever hit the small screen. But it’s been two years since Breaking Bad ended and the question that’s been on everyone’s mind is, is Bryan Cranston one of those TV actors who has a great TV run but never manages to branch out to film? Michael Chiklis, Dominic West and even James Gandolfini are all actors who, for years headlined big TV dramas but could never really translate the same success to film.
If anything, Trumbo proves that Bryan Cranston can not only carry a movie, but he is clearly going to be around for a long time if he keeps turning in performances like the one he gives in this film.
Trumbo follows the true story of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) who back in 1947 was Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.
Trumbo recounts how the screenwriter used words and wit to win two Academy Awards (under a fake name) and expose the absurdity and injustice under the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.
Biopics have a tendency to be incredibly boring and dull, I’ve talked about my reservations about the sub-genre in the past, so if I see a biopic that isn’t boring and actually entertaining it is, pleasantly surprising. Trumbo is a film, that could have been a lot better and a lot worse but the end product itself is quite fine. This is a film that is enjoyable, entertaining, darkly humorous and manages to make good use of its otherwise dark subject matter. It’s depiction of 50’s Hollywood, not to forget appearances from people like Kirk Douglas, John Wayne (played by other actors of course) makes it even more fun to watch.
None of this could be possible of course if it wasn’t for Bryan Cranston’s excellent central performance as Dalton Trumbo, who manages to paint a genuinely sympathetic portrait of the titular character and manages to perfectly balance and a light-hearted and a far more serious tone with his performance. It would be a real shame if he misses out on an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
That said, the film is definitely not without its flaws. The surface level screenplay from John McNamara lacks focus and fails to actually delve into the character of Trumbo. The shift in tone from comedy to drama doesn’t always work so well either. Having Jay Roach at the helm doesn’t help either because his direction feels dull and flat and a lot of that is because his style of filmmaking is far better suited to television and fails to translate well here.
Most of it works, some of it doesn’t, but all together Trumbo is a solid film that boasts a stellar leading turn from Bryan Cranston, whose performance alone should be enough of a reason to see this film.