Movie review of “Trumbo”: An overly careful performance by Bryan Cranston in the title role anchors the story of Dalton Trumbo, arguably the best-known member of the Hollywood 10 screenwriters blacklisted during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and ’50s. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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An overly careful performance by Bryan Cranston in the central role anchors “Trumbo,” the story of arguably the best-known member of the Hollywood 10, the screenwriters famously blacklisted by the major studios at the height of the Red Scare in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Dalton Trumbo was well-known (and highly paid) for his screenplays for such hits as “Kitty Foyle” and “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.” He was also, during the 1940s, a member of the Communist Party.

Director Jay Roach (“Meet the Parents”), working from a script by John McNamara, dramatizes his fall from favor in 1947 after defying inquisitors of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). His refusal to answer the question “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” and his excoriation of the witch-hunting, free-speech-trampling climate of the times lead to his blacklisting, his confinement in federal prison and the derailing of his screenwriting career.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘Trumbo,’ with Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning. Directed by Jay Roach from a screenplay by John McNamara. 124 minutes. Rated R for language including some sexual references. Guild 45th, Pacific Place.

Roach’s direction is pedestrian. He turns the picture into an earnest primer of the issues of the era and a road map of how Trumbo slowly resuscitates his career, even, despite the blacklist, winning two Oscars, concealing his authorship behind a frontman and a pseudonym.

Cranston is surprisingly low key, showing intensity during the HUAC sequence but is much more restrained in almost every other scene.

“Trumbo” only truly comes alive during scenes with Helen Mirren, who, in the role of red-baiting gossip columnist and chief Trumbo foe Hedda Hopper, chews scenery with a vengeance, and John Goodman, bullying and funny as a schlock-movie producer who hires Trumbo to (anonymously) write potboilers.