Trumbo ★★★

TIFF 2015 Film #7
Reason for pick : interested in subject

Back when I was in grade 7 or so, I happened to pick up the book Johnny Got His Gun from the school library. All I remember was that it affected me more than anything I had read up to that point. Trumbo’s realization of a war veteran who returns with little more than his mind intact was absolutely heartbreaking. Isolated from the world except for a small spot on his neck that still had some sensitivity to touch.

In some ways, his 1938 novel was an odd kind of foreshadowing of what would follow in 1947 when he was cut-off from his livelihood by the House Of Un-American Activities Committee and forced to work vicariously.

I’m not the biggest fan of biopics, but I thought the subject compelling enough to take a chance. Besides that, TIFF this year is lousy with biopics so it’s hard to avoid stepping into one or two.

Tumbo is filled with detail of the man and the particular dark period of time Hollywood, but I’m afraid that it comes off as a made-for-TV movie. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why; my wife ventured that it was the way it was lit; I thought about the rather pedestrian cinematography. I didn’t identify Bryan Cranston as Mr. White, but something about his performance smacked of TV. This was evident whenever Helen Mirren or John Goodman had scenes, they somehow seemed … movie like.

There’s a lot to learn about the time and the man from Trumbo, and this makes it a worthwhile watch, but I wouldn’t hurry out to see it on the big screen.

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