The United States had a long and unofficial war with Communism -- but at what cost to the nation's beliefs and soul?  Trumbo is a look at that time's impact on a man and his friends and family -- and what he did to fight back.

In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was on the top of the world.  He was about to become Hollywood's biggest-paid screenwriter.  He had a beautiful wife Cleo (Diane Lane) and three young kids, plus lots of friends in Hollywood.  He even had a beautiful lakeside home in the California countryside.  Dalton was also a Communist, seeing that as simply wanting to share with those who had less.

Unfortunately for Dalton and his Communist (and even liberal) friends, the House Un-American Activities Committee was busy fanning the flames of anti-Communist paranoia, calling people before them to identify themselves as Communist, demanding those suspects name names of fellow Communists, and jailing those who refused to comply.  The Committee was also assisted by Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), a former actress-turned-gossip columnist who gladly threatened to boycott any studio who hired or worked with an identified Communist -- and to label anyone in Hollywood as a Communist sympathizer.

Dalton refused to cooperate with the Committee, leading to a prison term.  Possibly worse, when he was released he was on the Blacklist, a list of Communists whose hiring would be toxic to any movie studio.  But Dalton kept writing and working, whether writing for his friends and giving them the credit (his buddy Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk) won an Oscar for Trumbo's screenplay for Roman Holiday) or churning out scripts and rewrites for sleazy movie producer Frank King (John Goodman).  And as Dalton keeps working in secret, he gets the chance to make a screenplay for a movie called Spartacus...

Trumbo is a film that is both inspiring and frightening.  Bryan Cranston makes Dalton Trumbo into a flawed hero, someone passionate about his beliefs, even when that impacts his family and friends.  More striking is the time -- from the 1940s well into the 1960s -- when anyone suspected of being a Communist or having even rumored ties to Communism could be prevented from working and publicaly shunned and hated or even imprisoned solely for their beliefs.  Trumbo has a terrific cast (including many actors playing, well, other actors, directors, and producers from the past) and manages to be at times amusing, sad, and tense -- all revolving around a man writing and writing.  Trumbo is a truly impressive film.

Overall grade: A+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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