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The career of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is halted by a witch hunt in the late 1940s when he defies the anti-communist HUAC committee and is blacklisted.

Release Date:October 27, 2015
Production Co.:Groundswell Productions, Inimitable Pictures, ShivHans Pictures
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:Jay Roach
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:screenwriter, communist, biography, film history, hollywood, writer, father daughter relationship, film industry, communism, blacklist, mccarthyism, 1940s, movie industry
Alternative Titles:
  • L'Ultima Parola - La Vera Storia di Dalton Trumbo - [IT]
  • Trumbo. La lista negra de Hollywood - [ES]
  • Trumbo: La lista negra - [MX]

Trumbo Reviews

  • A Very Important Film
    by litcity on 7 December 2015

    134 out of 171 people found the following review useful:

    I give this movie an 8 out of 10. I think, technically, it deserves a 6 or 7. It hinges on the modern notion that a biopic isn't complete unless we see all the nuances regarding the protagonist's family life. That is not necessarily the fault of the filmmakers. I don't think a picture can get funded if it doesn't adhere to these modern foibles. I give it an 8, however, and, for its purpose alone, it deserves a 10.

    It takes guts to make a movie like this today.

    In the United States, we tend to get comfortable and forget that the concept of freedom of speech is the most important idea any human being has ever put forth. We tend to forget that the powers that be don't like that idea.

    They really, REALLY don't like that idea.

    They want us lowly masses to be good little sheep and do what we're told and think exactly the way they want us to think. We tend to forget that fighting against that tendency of power is a struggle, a painful, sometimes lethal struggle. Folks in other countries know about it. They know all too well. That's why, in spite of all the other problems they may have with the U.S., they still want to live here.

    But we've gotten lazy. Not only are there forces on the extreme right that would like to dictate how we live, think, and even breathe--now we have a warring faction from the left, seen most prominently on college campuses, that embraces censorship and the "shutting down" of alternative opinions like little McCarthys on methamphetamine. The concept of a "safe space," where no "offensive" opinions may be heard, is nothing short of censorship. Defenders of this nonsense often make the claim that the government is not getting involved, therefore, it's not a violation of the First Amendment. Here's what's wrong with that argument:

    1. Remember our old friend Katherine Hepburn in Adam's Rib? In her closing arguments, she says the law has two parts--the letter and the spirit. It's true, by the letter of the law, students harassing and banning speakers on campus they don't agree with does not equal the federal government censoring those speakers. But it does violate the SPIRIT of the First Amendment. The government, as the film Trumbo clearly shows, cannot always be trusted to safeguard the LETTER of that particular law. It is up to us, We the People, to safeguard the SPIRIT of that law.

    2. Trumbo shows us the horrific world where the government trampled on the First Amendment from the top down. What is happening on college campuses today is that violators of what is deemed "politically correct" (a phrase originating from Mao's Cultural Revolution, which should raise several alarms on that basis alone) are subjected to kangaroo courts on the campus, away from legitimate, LEGAL courts of law. They are harassed and humiliated (just as dissenters in the Cultural Revolution were) with no legal recourse. If this practice becomes accepted in normal society, we will have a political environment no different from the times depicted in the film. The only difference--this time, it we have started with the people and spread to a government ready and willing to enact "speech codes" for its own purposes.

    By now, those who still, stubbornly, cling to the notion that there is nothing wrong with what is happening on college campuses today will have dismissed this review. They might even leave typical ad hominem attacks on the message boards to make what attempts they can to silence me (to kill the messenger, if you will). This should very well indicate that what I've said is true.

    The sane people reading this, no doubt, are asking what the heck this all has to do with Trumbo.



    Having been subjected to a kangaroo court on a college campus where I was called in to the Title IX office for teaching Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," I couldn't help but think, as I watched Trumbo, of the horrific witch hunt I was subjected to. That the film so easily earned my empathy is a testament to how well it's made.

    I wish everyone involved a long, healthy career in the movies. We need more stories like this, stories that remind us the struggle to survive as individuals in a world that so stubbornly clings to collectivism is a never-ending battle. It's happened before. It's happening now. If we don't speak up and resist, it will continue happening in the future.

  • Excellent acting, great writing and keeping true to history make TRUMBO the best film of the year
    by jmsdxtr on 21 November 2015

    99 out of 134 people found the following review useful:

    Okay. I'll admit that I gave this film a ten because it should have a higher score altogether than the 7.3 it has, and I wanted to up it. But a solid 8 at least or even a 9, for sure. There are at least two reasons why this fine film is not getting a higher rating, I believe. One is that there are many people (including critics) who look only at it from a political standpoint, both left and right. And those on the right are not going to like it no matter what, fine acting, writing or whatever. The same in the left but conversely (and a smaller number). Secondly, this is a slow and thoughtful film that will not go over with many young viewers who are used to fast paced action and CGI content. they will find neither in Trumbo.

    But, for students of history and for people who like a good story, without the fluff, it is all here. Classic good vs evil dynamics coupled with the inherent contradictions. The struggle of lost faith and eventual redemption. And perhaps mostly, excellent social dynamics especially centered around family loyalty and the struggle of holding to ones personal values.

    As for the history, there is much here. As stated above more than any film ever having dealt with the subject. Films like "the Front" and "Guilty by Suspicion" are indeed good films that, especially at the time where breaking ground for a more nuanced exploration of the subject. That Trumbo is a biography is advantageous. A real biography, not a overly fictionalized and caricatured profile of the era. This despite that fact that some of the characters are fictionalized, they nonetheless represent the experiences and attitudes of real people. Louis C.K.'s Arlen Hird character being one. Dalton Trumbo may have had a better time of it than most, such as Hird. It is thought by some that the rising star of John Garfield was killed (literally-a heart attack) by the effect of the HUAC on him. This was a time, as the film states when people were fighting for their professional and personal life against what could be called a creeping fascist tendency in the US political environment. The fear and reaction and self promotion of many (ie John Wayne, Hedda Hopper et al.) is evident here.

    The writing is excellent. My hat goes off to John McNamara and Bruce Cook for their adherence to historical accuracy and verisimilitude. The dialog is remarkable and keep you involved. It keeps you thinking and hits at an emotional level that few films do at all anymore. But it all comes together with the excellent direction of Jay Roach. To bring together the historical and personal is such a way is no small feat. He deserves an Oscar (as do McNamara and Cook).

    I could go on...but just see the movie. You won't regret it. You can still watch Star Wars at Xmas...

  • Are you now or have you ever been . . .
    by Red-125 on 30 November 2015

    64 out of 88 people found the following review useful:

    Trumbo (2015), which is based on the life of Dalton Trumbo, was directed by Jay Roach. It stars Bryan Cranston as Trumbo.

    Trumbo was the highest-paid writer in Hollywood, and he was really, really good. Although it was legal to be a member of the Communist Party, Trumbo actually went to jail because he wouldn't name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

    Sadly, many actors and screenwriters ran afoul of the HUAC witch-hunt. Some named names. In this movie, that person is Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg). (Historically, but not included in the movie, director Elia Kazan did the same thing.)

    The HUAC was supported by a cheering squad, among whose ranks was gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, played brilliantly by Helen Mirren.

    The HUAC wasn't satisfied with sending people to jail. They wanted to destroy them. They accomplished this by enforcing the blacklist. Anyone on the blacklist couldn't find work in Hollywood. All doors were closed to them. Some moved to Europe, others wrote and directed using substitutes or false names.. Many of them were desperate, because they were cut off from any income despite their the ability to work effectively in their profession.

    John Goodman is brilliant in the supporting role of Frank King, a studio owner who has never overestimated the intelligence of the people that flock to his Grade B movies. Diane Lane plays Dalton Trumbo's wife, Cleo Trumbo. It's not really a great role, because she truly does have to portray the long-suffering wife. Still, she manages to pull it off. Helen Mirren plays Hedda Hopper. Hopper loves the fact that millions of viewers read her column every day, and that gives her a power that even studio heads don't have. Mirren is one of the great actors of our day, and this is another movie where she demonstrates just how great she is.

    A positive aspect of this movie is that it shows a writer actually writing. We get multiple scenes of Trumbo pounding on his typewriter, fueled by alcohol and benzedrine. Most movies about writers show every part of their lives except writing. Director Roach doesn't make that mistake.

    We saw Trumbo on the large screen at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. It will work almost as well on the small screen. Trumbo may turn out to be the best film of 2015. Don't miss it!

  • What a great film
    by Steve B on 28 November 2015

    48 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

    I have seen so many documentaries about this era. The Hollywood blacklist, McCarthyism.

    However, this takes a fresh, personal look at what happened. It shows how folks actually handled this, rather than just the circumstances of the time and newsreels of Congress hearings. How did they do it? This shows the how and when, the risks. Of course, Trumbo captures the full story of the persecution.

    Stay to the very end of the film, stay for the credits as some of the clips they show are so meaningful.

    I don't know if Trumbo was the person shown in the film, but if he was, he was an American hero. I think films like this represent the spirit, the best or worst of the spirit of what happened.

    Trumbo wasn't just a hero from the look of it, he was also a survivor who made his way through the worst of it and came out on the other side.

  • a fun movie on a serious subject
    by MisterWhiplash on 27 November 2015

    46 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

    I've seen some mixed reviews of Trumbo, and in a way I can understand why it wouldn't impress some film critics. It is a movie where the movie business, and especially movie personalities, are given over to actors to play. It's not unlike a few years ago with the Anthony Hopkins Hitchcock: you got a big cast and they all have roles to play from people who, if you're a big movie buff (or even someone who just knows who Kirk Douglas or John Wayne were, and that's probably a lot, whether or not you know who Dalton Trumbo was entirely), there's an aspect of 'Oh, he's or she is playing HIM or HER!' But I think with a sharp enough script that sort of thing goes by the way-side, especially if it gives the right actors some good stuff to play. There's nothing about Trumbo that is especially complex, as it has the message that most of us in 2015 would agree with: the Hollywood Blacklist, not just what happened to the Hollywood 10 but many others, was a horrible thing, and the thesis comes down to the idea that there were good and bad people in it but it also came down to the nature of it all making people victims... well, except for Hedda Hopper.

    The movie is fun though whether or not you know a lot about the history because of who is in the cast and especially Bryan Cranston as Trumbo. He's a man who makes a lot of money in the 40's in Hollywood writing scripts and yet is an avowed Communist (he makes the case to his daughter in such a way early on in the film that some might question but most of us would go 'huh, that's it then'). A lot of the conflict comes because of what the history had right there: HUAC went after people in Hollywood who were suspected 'traitors', but in reality were just writers and (some) actors and directors who had affiliations with the party, and thanks to pressure by columnist Hedda Hopper (played here by Helen Mirren in a role that's deliciously evil) and John Wayne (actor I can't remember but does a good impression without being caricature-ish), a group got pressured. They didn't name names, were held in contempt of court, found guilty and did time. Well, unless if you were Edward G. Robinson (though he's shown in a somewhat sympathetic light, maybe just by Michael Stuhlbarg being in the role).

    The bulk of the story is about the 'front' that Trumbo led for himself and other blacklisted writers such as stubborn/cancer-ridden Arlen Hird (Louis CK, always a pleasure to watch, but especially in scenes with Cranston). They used fake names to get their scripts made, even as they had no choice for a while but to team up with filmmakers who were out to just make "crap" (an echo in a way for me of Burton's Ed Wood with the John Goodman character). There's some predictable drama that unfolds - the all-business-all-writing part of Dalton that conflicts with being a father and family-man and clashing with his daughter and wife (very good Elle Fanning and Diane Lane respectively) - but what helps it along all the way is just a sharp script and direction that keeps things thematically strong.

    This is serious stuff what happened to these people in Hollywood, and director Jay Roach and writer John McNamara know that, all the way up to a final speech from Trumbo upon winning a WGA award that puts things into a perspective that (almost) makes Trumbo too fair to those who really wronged him and his friends. But it's just full of wit an clever lines; if you're a sucker for that, as I can be sometimes, then Trumbo makes for a balance of the light and dark stuff. Again if nothing else, Cranston makes someone who can easily be seen as a CHARACTER in bold letters (and by many accounts that is who Trumbo was) and gives him three dimensions and perspective on the situations that unfold. He does things that may be wrong and provocative, in both bad and good ways, and is told off enough that any of his short-comings become kind of charming. I could've spent more time with his Trumbo and been happy, especially in light of the history that unfolds here (i.e. Roman Holiday, Spatacus, Exodus, other productions like The Brave One).

  • Excellent film on perseverance and brilliance
    by Cassandra Bautista ( on 27 November 2015

    39 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

    This film should be best film of the year for many reasons. For one it challenges one's beliefs. Two it shows accounts of U.S. history and third it demonstrates great courage.Dalton Trumbo's life was a testament of the power of one's mind. Trumbo's life was amazing by itself but the film made an autobiography come to life. Trumbo accomplished more than most men ever will. He used his life experience's, his quick thinking, and brilliance in writing and politics to challenge the United States government. He also suffered because of his bravery. This film is a great reminder of how flawed this country can be despite being promoted as the land of the free. America has many accounts of being unjust and oppressing that it has conveniently for years hid. This film shows some accounts of this and spotlights a brilliant writer and his equally gifted family members who stood their ground and pushed forward against a system that for decades had went unchallenged. Dalton Trumbo's life is inspiring and his wife and daughter's characteristics seemed to mirror his dedication and bravery. This is a great time period film and a must see if you are part of the cinema community.

  • Best Bio of the year.
    by das5712 on 28 November 2015

    33 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

    Truth may be stranger than fiction. This true story is way better than all the current competing fictional concoctions. The lessons from this story are more pertinent than ever, as fear of controversy limits the fare at the cineplex to pablum or propaganda for the political establishment. Trumbo won multi Oscars for his work, and his life as told here, deserves another. We need more serious well done films like this. Award nominations are deserved for writer, direction, lead actor, ensemble/best picture. Special mention to the actors who undertook the most difficult task of portraying those well know characters who lived within living memory. These are most difficult roles and good performances added so much to the film.

  • 70 Years On, Some People Still Want to Tell Others What to Think
    by Victoria Weisfeld on 8 December 2015

    34 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

    After practically having the frequently shown previews for Trumbo memorized, I finally saw the film itself. (Though one trailer scene with Helen Mirren didn't actually appear in the movie. Weird.) As you undoubtedly know, Trumbo is the story of the Hollywood 10, writers blacklisted during the communist witch-hunts of the late 1940s and 1950s. Joe McCarthy and all that. When called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Dalton Trumbo (played beautifully by Bryan Cranston) and the other nine refused to give Congress information about their beliefs or to rat out others in the film industry. As a result, a number of them including Trumbo went to prison for contempt of Congress ("I AM contemptuous of Congress," he said after the HUAC hearing). He was in the slammer for 10 months and once he was out could no longer get work. Meanwhile, some industry personages—in the movie, producer Buddy Ross (Roger Bart) and actor Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg)—saw their careers going up in smoke and did testify (though in real life, Robinson did not name names). The movie effectively skewers that Great American Flag-Waving Hero, John Wayne, who managed to avoid any military service during World War II and Korea. "If you're going to act as if you won the war single-handedly," Trumbo tells him, "it would be more believable if you'd actually served," as he and so many of his black-listed colleagues had. They represent the tip of the iceberg of people harmed by the virulent anti-Communism of the day, and although the movie is about the Hollywood 10, it's really about the Hollywood One, Trumbo, the most accomplished of the lot. The composite character Arlen Hird has the unenviable job of being Trumbo's verbal sparring partner and representing an amalgam of several of the harder-line writers' views. Trumbo is unfailingly supportive of him, even though he inserts his political views into scripts (which Trumbo rewrites) and clearly doesn't trust Trumbo. (This is where the "You talk like a radical, but you live like a rich man" line from the trailer fits in.) While not a lot of acting was required of Diane Lane as Trumbo's wife, she did a fine job, and Helen Mirren is perfect as the odious Hedda Hopper, blackmailer without portfolio. As writer Hird, comedian Louis C.K.'s acting inexperience shows a bit, as he's up against such acting superstars, while John Goodman is all prickly geniality and Alan Tudyk plays a credible Ian McLellan Hunter. Hunter wins the Academy Award for the Roman Holiday script (the Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn classic), but Trumbo wrote it. In fact, Trumbo and the others write many screenplays for which they receive credit only belatedly, if at all. The back of the blacklist can't be broken until a few Hollywood luminaries are willing to give appropriate screen credit. Directed by Jay Roach with a solid script from John McNamara. While in their vision, the character of Trumbo doesn't change much over the course of the story—except perhaps to learn not to take what he most cherishes for granted—"he is no more or less principled at the end than he was at the start," said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. He is forgiving, though, and in the end acknowledges that all humans are a mix of good acts and bad (except perhaps for Hedda Hopper). The real opportunity for learning lies with the audience. While those anti-Communist days may now seem rather quaint—Congress taking on a bunch of two-fingered typists—there always are people who believe they know best what other people should think, who believe others are too dim or inattentive to grasp hidden political messages, who think citizens are like children who have to be protected from difficult ideas. That, the movie Trumbo seems to say, is still the danger. Another film well worth the price of a ticket.

  • Very similar, to a lot of political battles, and social struggles, still going on today!
    by Hellmant on 14 January 2016

    23 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

    'TRUMBO': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

    A biographical-drama flick, based on the life of successful Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo; who was jailed, and blacklisted (in the 1940s), for his communist beliefs. The film stars Bryan Cranston, as Trumbo, and it costars Diane Lane, Louis C.K., Helen Mirren, Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Dean O'Gorman, David James Elliott and Alan Tudyk. It was directed by Jay Roach, in his dramatic directorial debut; following many popular comedy flicks (like 'MEET THE PARENTS', it's first sequel, and all of the 'AUSTIN POWERS' movies). The film was written by John McNamara, and it was based on the book ('Dalton Trumbo') by Bruce Cook. I found it to be very involving, educational and inspiring.

    In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) was one of Hollywood's most successful screenwriters; he was also a member of the extremely controversial CPUSA (Communist Party of the USA). The party was so threatening, to those in power, that many famous Hollywood figures, of the time, were subpoenaed and jailed, for their beliefs (and refusing to admit to the use of propaganda, in their work). Trumbo was one of 10 screenwriters, that fell victim to this paranoia. Upon release from prison, he continued to work, under aliases, and attempted to expose the injustice, of this abuse.

    I didn't know a lot about the details, of these historical events; I also knew very little about Dalton Trumbo. So for me, the movie was very informative, and fascinating. It reminded me (a lot) of similar political battles, and social struggles, still going on today. For these reasons, I found the film to be extremely emotional. I also found it to be very entertaining, because of it's insightful details, about Hollywood (at that time). Cranston gives a very impressive performance; and the supporting cast is all good as well (O'Gorman is especially memorable, as Kirk Douglas). Roach might not have been the best director, for this material, but the movie is still really memorable, and enjoyable!

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  • Overcomes hurdles to succeed in delighting its audience.
    by cscaisse on 13 November 2015

    31 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

    Trumbo is a period piece set in the late 40s and early 50s, following the life of Dalton Trumbo, arguably the leader of the Hollywood 10 who stood up to congress over what they saw as the illegal investigation and censorship of people's beliefs and free speech during the Second Red Scare after WWII. At the time, Congress and, in turn, members of the Hollywood elite blackballed writers, actors, directors, etc who identified as communists. Not spies for Moscow, but communists by political belief. Some faced jail time. Some lost their homes because they could not find work. Others encountered harsher realities. And Hollywood witch-hunt was merely a small part of a more wide-spread affront to civil liberties.

    The time period itself is difficult to portray without seeming to be caricature - or perhaps style and communication have changed so much in 65 years that it just seems like caricature. Added to that difficulty are portrayals of John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, legends of film that, as a young person, I may have gone my whole life subconsciously thinking of as only existing on screen. Trumbo mostly rises to the occasion.

    Much of Trumbo is comedic, and with intention, but the film also carries a certain amount of poignancy, if maybe a little less than it could use given the subject matter. Bryan Cranston is incredibly enjoyable to watch, and during the credits you get to watch a clip of the real Trumbo to compare. The portrayal is jarringly realistic (something you may question for the entirety of the film). Helen Mirren is a worthy antagonist, and very effectively displays the fear and anger that result from war - the need to dehumanize the enemy in order to survive the loss you feel as your family is fighting thousands of miles across the world, the need to justify pain through rigid ideology.

    Other notable performances come from Michael Stuhlbarg, whose character, Eddie, provides for much of the films poignancy, and Diane Lane as the quiet but strong Cleo Trumbo, the rock of her family. John Goodman, is well cast as the comedic used car salesman of film, and Elle Fanning makes her mark as the rebellious daughter learning to be every bit of a force as her father.

    It would be unfair to pin the failings of the film on a single person, but Louis C. K. continues to prove that being a great comedian does not make you a great actor. His portrayal is, in fact, so flat that it pulls you out of immersion in the film, a flaw that is further exacerbated by Bryan Cranston's mastery. Scenes between the two are simply absurd.

    As a whole, the film's laughs are well earned and its feelings are well felt. Where the film falls short is to evoke, without personal reflection, the so obvious parallels between the state of our country today and that of the film. But perhaps that is not the goal. Perhaps the goal was to, with a bit of fun, portray a larger than life writer who decided to take on the world...and won. In that, Trumbo is a great success.

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