Trumbo (Blu-ray)
Review by: Matt Brighton
Posted on: February 11th, 2016
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Plot: What’s it about?

As I sit here and write this review, I have to wonder how much has changed in this country in the last 7 decades? The film in question, Trumbo, focuses on a group of men were self-proclaimed Communists and were therefore ostracized from their jobs, homes and friends. They weren’t Communists in the “sell secrets to the Russians” sense, more along the lines of looking out for the working man and ensuring that they got their fare share of what was due to them. Sounds pretty harmless, right? But as I look back on what’s going on around us, we’ve got people shooting people in shopping malls, riots based on the color of one’s skin and people segregated based on religious and political beliefs. So, again, how much has really changed? Switching gears, I’ll say that I’m sure that Bryan Cranston was offered tons of roles after his stint on Breaking Bad ended. This is his first major role since that television show ended and, wouldn’t you know it, he’s up for an  Academy Award. Is the hype real or is Cranston really that good?

Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is a Communist. In the post WW II era with tensions with the Russians soaring, that’s not a good thing. Trumbo, along with a group of his friends and co-workers, are targeted and prosecuted for their “beliefs” and are thus put out of work. Trumbo, after refusing to testify, is then sentenced to a prison sentence which he serves. After he gets out, he tries to once again acclimate to the life he’s accustomed to. Having lost all of his connections, he continues to write under surnames and, ultimately, finds work for the King Brothers (John Goodman and Stephen Root), turing their B-movies into something a bit more. The film follows the ups and downs of Trumbo as well as a few of his colleagues as they try to shun the moniker placed upon them. There are some internal struggles with his family as well as some notable Hollywood names who are all too eager to voice their opinions on Trumbo. Isn’t Hollywood a magical place?

I was passingly familiar with “The Hollywood 10”, based on some film history classes and movies I’ve seen. However I wasn’t really that immersed in the struggles that Dalton Trumbo and others faced from such high profile celebrities. It’s hard to imagine films like Exodus, Spartacus and Roman Holiday being written by any other person, but those films might not have ever seen the light of day nor be remembered as fondly had it not been for Trumbo’s typewriter. I’ll come out and say that Cranston is pretty amazing in this role. The man got most of his work done in his bathtub and Cranston embodies Trumbo like few could. Being a movie about making movies, we’ve got our traditional ensemble cast with Diane Lane in the “submissive wife” role, John Goodman, Louis C.K. and Helen Mirren in the role of the antagonist. Trumbo is one of those films in which the individual performance outshines the film itself, but for anyone with even a glimmer of interest in the history of Hollywood – this is required viewing.

Video: How’s it look?

The movie covers a period of 25 years and we see Dalton Trumbo age accordingly. The dark black hair slowly turns grey and the 1.85:1 AVC HD image brings out the detail and texture in the trademark mustache and hair. The majority of the film takes place indoors in offices and, as I mentioned before, a bathroom. We can see the little trademarks of the time, some of the design choices and the hue of the film which looks a bit on the earthy-toned side. Certainly the costume design is worth mentioning, Helen Mirren’s wardrobe alone deserves a nod as to how gaudy things really were back then. Universal has done an amazing job with this transfer and audiences will not be let down.

Audio: How’s it sound?

To say that a movie about screenwriting is dialogue-driven is, well, what do you think? Vocals are at the heart of the film, but there are enough interspersed nuances in the surround tracks to give a bit of atmosphere. I remember little things like a car going by or a door slamming or even the wind in the trees. The DTS HD Master Audio mix seems to have just the right amount of action in it to keep the viewer immersed, but not anything that will test the limits of your system. It’s a nice, well-rounded mix that’s sure to please.

Supplements: What are the extras?

For a movie about writing, the Blu-ray is surprisingly bare of supplements. Two are included, and there’s not much to them. Nevertheless…

  • Who is Trumbo? – A few words with Cranston and some of the supporting cast followed by a montage of clips from the film. Running at 4 minutes, this plays out like a glorified trailer.
  • Bryan Cranston Becomes Trumbo – Essentially the same as above, with a few words from Director Jay Roach and more from Cranston, running only 2 minutes.

The Bottom Line

If there was any doubt as to the range of Bryan Cranston, I think his performance in Trumbo should validate his status as one of our more talented actors. The story is troubling, yet easy to follow and has some fine performances all around. The Blu-ray, while both looking and sounding good, comes up surprisingly short on extras making a purchase only for die hard fans.

Trumbo (Blu-ray)
Jay Roach
124 min.

Fresh 72%
  • (1.85:1)
  • Video Codec: AVC
  • Audio: DTS HD Master
  • 2 Disc Set
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy