Eamonn Rafferty’s review published on Letterboxd:
Trumbo is a film based on the true story of screenwriter Donald Trumbo and how he (along with nine others) was blacklisted by Hollywood for his political beliefs during a time of paranoia and witchhunting and also how he managed to do what he always done which was to keep on writing screenplays, exposing the injustice and absurdity of the Hollywood blacklist as he would go on to win two Academy Awards under various pseudonyms.
The positives to come from this film falls primarily on its casting, be it lead to just one scene roles, everyone provides good performances but the one performance that elevates this film is Bryan Cranston as Donald Trumbo, providing a charismatic and riveting turn that has earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and honestly, I actually prefer his performance the most over the other nominations with exception to Michael Fassbender as I've yet to see Steve Jobs. Yes I believe Cranston provided that good of a performance here. John Goodman shines in his scenes as Frank King, who doesn't care for Trumbo's political status, just as long as he's cheap and can write good scripts. One small screen time performance that might get brought up a lot in reviews will be Dean O'Gorman's performance as a young Kirk Douglas, he makes quite the impression. The film does an okay job telling the tale about Donald Trumbo to an audience they expect to not know a thing about him or his work, carrying the viewers hand through the steps of his career and small footnotes of his personal life.
While Cranston shines and the film is about Trumbo after all, most of the rest of the characters are limited in their motives and consequences from certain turning points in the film, such as the Hollywood ten that get blacklisted, we pretty much only see how it genuinely affected a few of them including Trumbo himself and though she does provide a good performance in the small amount of screentime she has, Helen Mirren does come across as 'boo-hiss' of an antagonist as we see that she clearly detests those associated with Communism though it's told in a way that feels relentless yet there to appear to place another obstacle for Trumbo to get around without more reasoning behind her motives. She just feels underused here with the role for this film. At times its odd to see an actor portray a well known actor, famous one actually, from Hollywood's passed and while it worked with O'Gorman playing Kirk Douglas, I just couldn't buy David James Elliott as John Wayne but it's nice to see Harm from JAG appear in a big film.
It's a rather conventional biopic that is a decent film that just happens to be elevated further more thanks to the performance from its leading actor in Bryan Cranston. An important story worth telling.