In the late ‘40s and ‘50s, when the word communist was synonymous with traitor, a number of talented writers and artists, working in the movie business with political leanings to the left of the mainstream, were hauled before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, jailed for their beliefs and blacklisted. The Hollywood Ten, as they came to be know, were thought to be spies working for the Soviet Union. It was Tinseltown’s darkest period and a time of national paranoia, resulting in the destruction or near-destruction of careers, lives and families. The amazing screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, here played to perfection by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, was the top writer in Hollywood at the time, but after being released from prison discovered he was without work and a number of onetime friends. Writing under assumed names, Trumbo ended up with a couple of Oscars that he can’t collect, while the bitchy national columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) smells a Trumbo script when she sees one and is determined to shut him down. Jay Roach, directing from a script by John McNamara and a biography by Bruce Cook, allows the frustration and the misguidedness of the era to slowly creep to the surface. We were lucky enough to interview Trumbo a few years before he passed. He was a remarkable talent and an equally remarkable man. He is brought back to life here.

– Mal Karman

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