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Stars: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alan Tudyk, Richard Portnow, Dean O'Gorman, Sean Bridgers, Christian Berkel

Director: Jay Roach

The trials and tribulations of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Breaking Bad's Cranston) are painfully portrayed in this largely factual chronicle of his downfall from top film writer - he almost always composed scripts in his bath - to a man no one would employ.

The reason: the flamboyant writer - never without a cigarette holder in his mouth - was a member of the Communist party. Like the rest of the 'Hollywood 10', Trumbo refuses to name fellow radicals to the House Un-American Activities Committee, or answer Congress questions - and is sent to prison for one year.

On his release, he resumes writing, allowing others to 'front' for him. 'I'm still doing scripts,' he tells his daughter (Fanning), 'just not allowed to put my name on them, or get paid.' "How's that work?' she retorts.

Remuneration does come along in the distinctly uncouth shape of exploitation film producer Frank King (Goodman), who hires Trumbo at the basic rate. 'They need scripts,' explains Trumbo to his wife (Lane) 'like the army needs toilet paper.'

So begin the nightmare years (although the King Brothers did put out better quality product at times than the film suggests): Trumbo 'wins' an Oscar for Roman Holiday and another for his story for The Brave One, a film only the Kings are brave enough to make.

The film also does something of a disservice to Edward G Robinson (Stuhlbarg), a sympathiser though not a Communist, who did not 'name names', as the screenplay suggests (only organisations), but was nonetheless out of work for more than a year.

It's Cranston, however - Trumbo to the life, chewing fiercely on his cigarette-holder) - who dominates this absorbing, beautifully-made film (which does contain rather too much vituperation and not enough pith and wit) throughout - even if hotly pursued by Mirren's unspeakably vile actress-turned-gossip-columnist Hedda Hopper, who fights his reinstatement to the last.

It should also be mentioned that the actors playing John Wayne and Kirk Douglas - sometime co-stars despite their political differences - look reasonably like the real things, as well as giving decent performances, in a film that will make you angry, as well it should.

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: entertainmentOne . Technicolor.
124 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 01 Feb 2016