Trumbo: Blacklist Drama


Based on Christopher Trumbo’s play about his hell-raising pop, the Spartacus screenwriter sentenced to prison for refusing to play ball with the witch-hunting House Committee on Un-American Activities, Trumbo the movie feels stage-bound, despite its use of archival interviews with the eloquent titan of the Hollywood Ten. This is no knock: The readings of Dalton Trumbo’s letters to family and friends are starkly rendered—famous faces (Michael Douglas, Nathan Lane, Donald Sutherland, Liam Neeson, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, so forth) recite rousing missives without the aid of sets or props of any kind save for Trumbo’s own thunderous proclamations in defense of free speech. And there are copious scenes from Trumbo’s work in which his characters lay down his law: Say everything, but rat out no one. (“I’m Spartacus,” damned right.) Still, the actors—most unshaven, wrinkled, so goddamned serious—steal the writer’s movie, as they wring from his epistles every last drop of blood and sweat spilled by a man punished for believing his country was better than its behavior.