Today is Bryan Cranston Day

Quote from Trumbo by Dalton Trumbo: (challenging John Wayne) “If you’re gonna talk about World War II as if you personally won it, let’s be clear where you were stationed – on a film set, shooting blanks, wearing makeup, and if you’re going to hit me, I’d like to take off my glasses.”

Quote from The Infiltrator by Robert Mazur: “Roberto, I am glad you are here.  But there is a part of me that wishes you hadn’t taken that risk.”

The first thing I actually remember Bryan Cranston starring in was an X-Files episode called “Drive” where he played Patrick Crump although is most known for his role as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle and Walter White in Breaking Bad.  Trumbo and The Infiltrator are based on true stories, which lends itself to interesting subject matter.  There were more opportunities to inject humor into the dialogue in Trumbo versus The Infiltrator, but Trumbo didn’t have the opportunity for the tension you’d find in crime drama.  I put them pretty much neck and neck in terms of production value.  Below are short descriptions and ratings for both.

Trumbo (2015) is a drama about the screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted in Hollywood during the late 1940s, and the result of it impacted his family, friends, and most of all himself.  His story is adapted from the book by Bruce Cook and the screenplay is written by John McNamara.  It is directed by Jay Roach and stars Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo and Diane Lane as Cleo Trumbo.  In addition to Cranston and Lane, David Maldonado plays Rocco, Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper,  Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson, Alan Tudyk as Ian McLellan Hunter, and Louis C.K. as Arlen Hird.  It has a MPAA rating of R for language including some sexual references and is 2 hours and 4 minutes long. 

The film opens with Trumbo being a top screenwriter for the studios until his Communist Party alignment comes under the spotlight by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  He is forced to serve eleven months in a federal prison and when he gets out, as the saying goes, he’s a changed man.  He now has to write under the radar and does so with the help of his family and screenwriters who weren’t blacklisted.  This lead to him not being able to accept the Academy Awards for Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956), but also lead to hardships on a personal level.  He was contacted to write Spartacus (1960) and because of the change in political climate including the election of a new President, the power of Hedda Hopper and anti-Communist Hollywood elites lost their traction.  Trumbo and the other blacklisted writers were no longer seen as villains, and his family was able to resume to more of a level of normalcy.  I give Trumbo a rating of 90%.

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The Infiltrator (2016) is a crime drama about a U.S. Customs Service agent, Robert Mazur, who infiltrates the drug underworld using the alias Bob Musella.  It leads him to the key players under Pablo Escobar and their money laundering schemes.  This adaptation is based from Mazur’s own book and the screenplay is written by Ellen Sue Brown.  It is directed by Brad Furman and stars Bryan Cranston as Bob Musella, John Leguizamo as Emir Abreu, Diane Kruger as Kathy Ertz.  Other cast include Juliet Aubrey as Evelyn Mazur, Joseph Gilgun as Dominic, Yul Vazquez as Javier Ospina, Michael Paré as Barry Seal, Benjamin Bratt as Roberto Alcaino, and Elena Anaya as Gloria Alcaino, and Carsten Hayes as Rudy Armbrecht.  It has a MPAA rating of R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material.  It is 2 hours and 7 minutes long. 

The film opens with Mazur finishing an undercover operation, only to be sucked into another one after some convincing by Emir Abreu.  With the help of Abreu and Dominic, Bob Musella takes shape and works his way up the underworld food chain where he goes through a series of tests.  Operation C-Chase would last two years, which proved hard on himself, but he eventually finds himself where he wants to be.  He is now near the top of the food chain and befriends Robert Alcaino and his wife, Gloria.  Mazur likes to work alone, but is given no choice to work with another undercover agent named Kathy Ertz.  She plays his fun-loving fiancée who has an eye for finer things, but as they continue to work as a team, Ertz becomes even more of a vital part of their undercover operation.  Using the backdrop of a wedding as the operation comes to a close, it is clear to Mazur and Ertz that even though you are paid to bring down the “bad guys” it doesn’t mean relationships aren’t formed.  By the end of Operation C-Chase, these were broken as well as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) members arrested and charged.  I give The Infiltrator a rating of 90%.

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