A film of 'quality'!
The story of Dalton Trumbo, Hollywood screenplay and script writer (mainly in the 1950s), and his struggle with the film industry, through the McCarthy 'witch-hunt trials', trying to blacklist and ostracize him for his membership of the Communist party.
Bryan Cranston, a name I didn't know (I see he's done a lot of TV work), plays the title character - and Diana Lane plays his wife, another name I was unfamiliar with though I see that she has appeared in a number of films I've seen in less up-front roles. Helen Mirren is the obnoxious and viperish (under a velvet glove), reactionary and flamboyantly fashion-conscious gossip writer, Hedda Hopper, all-powerful with her ability to influence public opinion through her bitchy magazine columns, which can determine the fate of anyone to whom she takes exception, especially political opponents. (She'd have been a shoo-in for 'Fox News' these days!)
It's a rivetting sweep of a story even though I knew where it was going. Although I was too young myself at the time to be aware of the trials, a number of well-known names are depicted here which show with clear effect which side they were on (if anyone didn't already know) - John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Otto Preminger - and, most significantly, here in the earlier portion of the film Edward G.Robinson, and, in the latter part, Kirk Douglas.
If the film does momentarily run low on steam in the final third it does pick up speed again effectively. I could have done without the long concluding speech where we might have made our own identical conclusions through all that's gone before, but I suppose it wraps it up neatly (maybe too neatly?)
I must also mention with some regret that there were some howlers of continuity lapses. Why do they let these get through? Do they really think we wouldn't notice? Unfortunate - as well as being distracting!
Director is Jay Roach, that same director of the Austin Powers films, who demonstrates that he can manage high drama every bit as successfully as he can do comedy.
The filmed story told, with liberties taken to simplify, has a lot going for it and I left the cinema feeling well-satisfied, though also aware that it's a story still being played out in Hollywood - not now with a campaign against card-carrying 'reds' of course, who'd be every bit as much of pariah status as before (their number must now be down to minuscule, almost non-existence levels anyway) - but the saga continues. As we are all currently reading, where money talks, the spotlight right now has settled on 'minorities' (including women) represented on screen. So in that sense, the general air of self-congratulation in eliminating the Communist hunt that this film ends with is now transferred to other areas not mentioned, though naturally without such penalties and the threats/realities of unemployment that were utilised in the case of McCarthyism.
I've heard unfavourable comparison being made of this with another film concerning the same issue of blacklisting at the same period, namely Martin Ritt's 'The Front' of 1976 (with Woody Allen in a non-comedic role). I liked that earlier film a lot too but this new one takes a different slant, concentrating on Trumbo's personal struggle with others of his ilk and amongst members of his own family. If the earlier one did carry a bit more punch, it's only by a slight margin.
In the final analysis, though, this one did leave me feeling it was a well-spent couple of hours of entertainment..............7.5.