A few months ago, I wanted to write a news piece about some casting announcements for the new film Trumbo, but I held off. Now, the first trailer for the McCarthy-era film about the blacklisting of the titanic Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston) has been released, and it looks like we’ve got one of our first serious Oscar contenders. Have a look:
The Radical may fight with the purity of Jesus, but the Rich Guy wins with the cunning of Satan.
Bryan Cranston is front-and-center in this trailer, and deservedly so. Cranston’s abilities are well-documented on the small screen thanks to his stint as Walter White on Breaking Bad, but he really hasn’t sparkled on the big screen yet beyond a few supporting roles, most notably in Argo and Drive. Throughout this trailer we see Cranston absolutely owning the character of Trumbo, a leftist intellectual Hollywood screenwriter who, according to his neighbor (Louis C.K.’s character Arlen Hird), “[Has] to say everything like it’s going to be chiseled into a rock.” You can see why Hird has this opinion: nearly every line from Cranston in the trailer is defiant and profound.
I mentioned earlier that this film will likely be an Oscar contender, which is an odd statement to make having seen nothing from the actual film. I will admit that the film could end up missing its mark, especially since director Jay Roach is more well-known for comedies (Meet the Parents) than period dramas. Still, this is a politically-themed period piece dealing exclusively with Hollywood and censorship. It will clearly champion the importance of integrity in face of tyrannical government/corporate policies, and do so through the lens of an iconic screenwriter and some of Hollywood’s most-cherished films of the past. Put bluntly, this is exactly the kind of film that not only gets nominated for Oscars – but wins them. For a more in-depth demonstration of this phenomenon, check out this youtube video from The Film Theorists where they show how Hollywood/Acting-themed films based on true stories are overwhelming Best Picture favorites with the Academy members – especially recently.
To be fair, Jim Carrey’s The Majestic didn’t blow away the Oscars when it was released and it had a similar subject matter, but Good Night and Good Luck did just fine, and with only half the available slots, to boot. With Trumbo, I think we have something novel on our hands that is going to surprise a lot of people. Cranston and the ensemble around him (Elle Fanning, Diane Lane, Alan Tudyk, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, and Louis C.K. to name a few) will absolutely dazzle us as we are transported to the height of the Red Scare. We will marvel at how evil and foolish was this recent American culture that would rather silence dissent than argue against it, and we will wonder if we could ever do that again – or if we already are. Mark your calendars for November 6th; Trumbo is going to be the pace-car for the Oscars this year.