I am Spartacus. I’m sure at least half of the reading audience are familiar with the phrase, and maybe some know that it’s from the 1960 Kirk Douglas movie, but I’m sure if I were to ask who wrote the script to Spartacus that number would go down immensely. I’d be in that category myself until just a little while ago when I watched this movie, last year’s critical darling Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston as Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
Trumbo is a biopic on the screenwriter, who was blacklisted from working in Hollywood during the second Red Scare in the US in the late 1940’s-early 1950’s. My own knowledge on this time frame is kind of vague, except for what I’d learned in history classes over the years, but I was aware of the basics of the time frame. I knew that people were blacklisted from working in Hollywood over their alleged and some not so alleged communist beliefs, but was not aware of how it personally affected these people until I saw this movie.
I was already a Bryan Cranston fan after seeing him as the Dad on Malcolm In The Middle, but it wasn’t until Breaking Bad that I, and a lot of other people, really saw the range this man had as an actor. It’s quite impressive, and here you get a very good sense of that range, from comedic to dramatic, sometimes in the same scene, as how life can be sometimes. Life is never really just one genre, if it is for you, you’re not living a big enough life. Cranston was nominated for an Academy Award for this role, only to lose it to ironically enough Leonardo Dicaprio, and you can see why.
Really the whole cast though is on point, I liked John Goodman’s supporting role as B-movie producer Frank King, which hearkened back, to me, an R rated take on his similar character in 1992’s Matinee (which I recommend checking out). Helen Mirren is another stand out as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, I was aware of the person from my fandom and reading up on the Golden Age of Hollywood, but I never knew how detestable at times the woman could be. Louis CK also has a supporting role as well, as fellow blacklisted screenwriter Arlen Hird.
Jay Roach, who had directed the Austin Powers movies, really showed me a different side of his talent here with this one. And, this movie about a screenwriter wouldn’t be quite as good though without a great script by John Mcnamara. Had I seen this movie back when it was first released last year, I’d have for sure called it one of my ten favorite movies of the year. As it is, it still is a great movie, and you should definitely watch it soon if you’re a fan of either old Hollywood, or good movies in general. It’s especially timely, in a weird way, with rumors that I’ve heard of our American President-elect Donald Trump wanting to bring back the House of Un-American Activities group, hopefully that doesn’t happen, as it was a terrible time in our nation’s history for free thinkers and writers alike. Hopefully somebody in Washington knows their history, as I would not want to repeat this time in history ever again.
Trumbo is available on Blu-Ray, Digital, and streaming on Amazon Prime Video.