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A Reel Life film section

Issue: Summer 2015-6

Trumbo (2016) movie review

Which Hunting?

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movie poster, Trumbo, Festivale film review; 220x319

Movie poster, Trumbo
Are you now or have you ever been.

At the end of the Second World War, our Russian allies became the communist enemy of the wealthy capitalist economy. By their influence, these individuals and corporations led the governments of the 'West' into a crusade against -isms in general and communism in particular.

People became sharply divided over the issue of what was, in the United States of America, "American". A witch hunt.

Investigations called before them members of many professions, but the Hollywood movie industry was a high-profile target.

Playwright Arthur Miller escaped condemnation by the strategic marriage to all-American bombshell Marilyn Monroe. He wrote The Crucible, a play about the Salem witch hunts that used them as a metaphor for the Senator McCarthy-led hunts for communists.

Dalton Trumbo was a communist, and a wealthy, successful, talented screenwriter who fell afoul of the congress's investigation into "Unamerican Activities". His story is less well-known than Arthur Miller's and much more interesting.

The release of Trumbo in these times is poignant, and one might say that the search for "unamericans" is a metaphor for the search for "terrorists" and "non-christians" in the West.

movie still, Trumbo, Festivale film review; 500x333

Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) and Cleo Trumbo (Diane Lane) in a scene from TRUMBO directed by Jay Roach, in cinemas February 18, 2016. An Entertainment One Films release.

Trumbo the movie is of course, filled to the brim with actors playing yesterday's stars (and other film-makers). The cast performs admirably, even with enthusiasm. They don't fall into the mistake of being impersonators, but rather try to embody the recognisable traits of their subjects while performing their roles.

Constantly getting the spotlight is Helen Mirren playing the famed ex-actress and gossip queen Hedda Hopper. Mirren gets to dress in Hopper's inimitable style, hats included, while she plays a startling character.

movie still, Helen Mirren in Trumbo, Festivale film review; 500x333

Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) in a scene from TRUMBO directed by Jay Roach, in cinemas February 18, 2016. An Entertainment One Films release.

John Wayne, who late in life received a medal for being an "American", is played with nods to his best-known poses by David James Elliott. Your humble reviewer has never been a fan of the actor's misogyny offscreen, and some of the behaviours he was happy to demonstrate onscreen. Wayne's leading part in the Hollywood blacklist that denied people the right to work based on their political beliefs is, to me, the most "Unamerican" of acts.

Diane Lane does an excellent job as Trumbo's wife and deserves special mention.

The photography of the film, switching between news reel and movie reel and 'reel' life is well done. The world of post-war Hollywood and beyond is convincing and unobtrusive. The audience is able to concentrate on the story of the people, not the politics.

In the end, when Trumbo makes his final speech, each audience member must ask themselves if they agree with Trumbo. It is up to the audience to decide if the behaviour of individuals (and after all the governments are made up of individuals) is right or wrong. Were people motivated by the consciences? By fear? By spectacular self-interest? By patriotism? Or by some deeper, darker human need to divide the world into "them" and "us" and embark on a crusade of destroying "them" in every way possible.

Thought-provoking, involving, an important story, well-told.

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by Ali Kayn
Australian release 18 Feb 2016
For credits and official site details, see below
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Just the facts:

Title: Trumbo (2016)
Written by: John McNamara (scr), Bruce Cook (novel)
Directed by: Jay Roach
Running time: 124 mins

The Players: Helen Mirren, Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, David James Elliott, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Maldonado, John Getz, Alan Tudyk, John Goodman, Stephen Root,

Official website:
IMDb entry

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