Thursday, 25 February 2016

Trumbo, Spotlight and Concussion

The film most people will mention when discussing Spotlight is All The Presidents Men, perhaps the most famous of all movies about journalism. The only real similarity between the two is that they, in the loosest possible terms, are about journalists uncovering a major scandal. Alan J Pakula's film is the more stylish of the two whilst Spotlight is filmed far simply thus allowing the story, performances and script to become the main driving force. Spotlight is a film without any directorial flourishes, it a controversial story simply told that wants the main focus to be on the story not superficial directorial touches.

Whilst Spotlight is somewhat lacking in dramatic tension this isn't necessarily a criticism but it does limit how memorable the film will be. However, that said, the film does leave a quite strong emotional impact because the performances from the victims are quite brilliant despite the fact that individually they had relatively little screen time. They provide great support to the major players (Michael Keaton, Rachael McAdams, Mark Ruffalo) who are also excellent.

The film is powered by the performances and the script, the story is straightforwardly and brilliantly told and the film is well paced but never massively gripping in a dramatic sense.


Concussion is a relevant in the current climate due to the rise in attention of head injures in many sports where head injuries may occur such as American Football and soccer (football). In regards to football much of the attention has been focused the impact of repeatedly heading those large, heavy leather balls back in the day they were used. Such is the mounting concern that its not surprising to find that heading has been removed from the game at a younger level.

Concussion follows Dr Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) who discovers a potential link between American Football players who suffer from severe mental conditions at a relatively young age and the participation in American football. To prove this theory he must go against the NFL and their many legion of fans to whom football isn't just a game but a way of life.

Concussion is an interesting film due to its timely release where head trauma whilst playing sports is becoming more and more of a concern. It's also worth pointing out that the film deals with the subject matter very humanely and its hard not to feel sympathy for those suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The film gets bogged down the romantic sub-plot that's a bit boring and its somewhat preachy whenever religion gets involved. Still, it's a good film, that's well acted, engaging, amusing and moving.


The 1950s was an era in American History where fear and paranoia of communism was prevalent in American society so much that it made a massive impact on the film industry and the content of the films. Films such Invasion of the Body Snatchers highlighted the fear and paranoia that the communists had infiltrated American soceity. However, the film is about the writers who were blacklisted for their political beliefs, such a Dalton Trumbo who was forced to use pseudonyms on all his works to get them published. His works during this period included the Academy Award winning Roman Holiday.

The Mccarthyism era of American history is still a controversial part of American history and still a black period of history for Hollywood where legendary directors such as Elia Kazan have had their reputations damaged for ratting out their friends. Jay Roach's telling of the story is efficient but pedestrian and televisual, the pace stutters thus making the film's two hour running time feel somewhat longer than it is. Whilst the film's pace stutters considerably due to a rather unenaging look at Trumbo's relationships with his wife and eldest daughter (played by well by Diane Lane and Elle Fanning) the film's look at the political side and Trumbo's struggles in the industry following his blacklisting is far more interesting but still lacking in any real insight.

Trumbo isn't anything special due to its conventional telling of the story, but Bryan Cranston's terrific central performance creates something memorable from the televisual and conventional feel of the film. Supporting Cranston well is a Michael Stuhlbarg who has the look of Edward G. Robinson (who got a rather unfair deal out of this as he was blamed for something he didn't do) and Helen Mirren whose acidic portrayal of Hedda Hopper is juicily pantomime villain evil. Funny in parts, it's a film about a great screenwriters that's let down by an average script which is elevated by great performances.



  1. I loved Spotlight, but I agree that the only thing it really has in common with All The President's Men is they're journalism movies, which is fine. Both are wonderful. I never saw Concussion. Trumbo was just okay, but Bryan Cranston was excellent.

    1. Yeah. Agreed. Cranston made the film watchable.

  2. HUGE fan of Spotlight. Rewatched it recently and it remains my favorite film from last year. Not so much with Trumbo.