‘All the Way’ reviews: Are Bryan Cranston & Melissa Leo locks to win Emmys?

The reviews are in for HBO’s “All the Way,” the docudrama adapted from the Tony-winning 2014 play, and they’re mostly glowing, especially for lead actor Bryan Cranston in the lead role as President Lyndon Johnson. Cranston won Best Actor in a Play at the Tonys for the role, and he’s virtually guaranteed an Emmy nomination, if not a win, for the TV version. It premieres May 21.

Cranston is on quite a roll. Besides the Tony, he earned his first Oscar nomination last year for another true-life drama: “Trumbo,” in which he played screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was persecuted during Hollywood’s communist witch hunt during the Cold War. That film was directed by Jay Roach, as is “All the Way.” Roach is undefeated at the Emmys, with four past victories as director and producer of the telefilms “Recount” (2008) an “Game Change” (2012).

‘All the Way’ trailer: Emmy Awards for Bryan Cranston & director Jay Roach?

Cranston has done well for himself at the Emmys. He’s a six-time winner for “Breaking Bad” — maybe you’ve heard of it. He won Best Drama Series twice as a producer (2013-2014), and he won a record-tying four prizes as Best Drama Actor (2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) — the only other actor to win that many in the category was Dennis Franz (“NYPD Blue”). As producer and star of “All the Way,” Cranston could increase his Emmy total to eight.

Do you think Cranston and “All the Way” will dominate the Emmys? It doesn’t hurt that he plays a real person, as did past Best Movie/Miniseries Actor champs like Michael Douglas (as Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra”), Barry Pepper (Robert Kennedy in “The Kennedys”) and Al Pacino (Jack Kevorkian in “You Don’t Know Jack”). Read some of the reviews below, then make sure to join the TV discussion in our forums.

Dorothy Rabinowitz (Wall Street Journal): “After the briefest of moments with this new president and his wife, the realization sets in: We are already profoundly and inescapably in the grip of two extraordinary performances—the kind that seem so little like performances it’s necessary to remember from time to time that these are what they are. Bryan Cranston’s astonishing portrayal of Lyndon Johnson—on display in the 2014 Broadway run of “All the Way”—not surprisingly won a Tony, as did the Robert Schenkkan play itself. Melissa Leo, new to the role in this HBO production, has not only succeeded in capturing Lady Bird’s tone with breathtaking precision but imbued her with the spirit and steely strength that lay beneath that gently charming manner of this First Lady, powers ready to be deployed when needed.”

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Neil Genzlinger (New York Times): “Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television on Saturday night in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play ‘All the Way,’ and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Mr. Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. In his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.”

Michael E. Ross (The Wrap): “Jay Roach‘s smart direction and the brilliant script by Robert Schenkkan (adapted from his Tony-winning play) are essential to capturing the dynamics of an era and its principal players. Likewise, Bill Corso’s impressive make-up is indispensable to getting these historical characterizations just right. But the acting’s the thing, and there’s not a disappointing performance in this stellar ensemble cast. Among the actors who vanish into their roles are Oscar winner Melissa Leo, terrific as Lady Bird Johnson, the First Lady and a woman juggling roles of mother, national figure and sounding board/sanctuary for a complicated, often difficult husband … But it’s Bryan Cranston‘s pitch-perfect performance as Lyndon Baines Johnson that grabs and holds you. In 2014, Cranston won the Tony for best lead actor for playing the LBJ role on Broadway. You can see why in HBO’s production.”

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