Out in cinemas is Adam McKay’s (the director of the smash hit The Big Short) political biopic Vice. He once again reteams with Christian Bale to tell the story of Dick Cheney the vice president of the United States from 2001 – 2009.
Using his signature style that brought audiences to The Big Short Vice is a fascinating look at one of the most influential and powerful men in history and his legacy when he left office.
McKay’s direction style once again is the star of his film. Like The Big Short McKay chooses a character in the film to be the narrator explaining away the political vernacular. This helps us to further connect to the life of Dick Cheney (Bale) and his wife Lynne (Amy Adams).
On the subject of the characters, Vice is full of them. It is ridiculous how these politicians and their families act. With Steve Carrell playing an in your face Donald Rumsfeld with a clownish Sam Rockwell as hapless President George W. Bush Jnr in the wings it’s a hell of an experience watching these people wheel and deal their way to the top of the most powerful political body of the time.
And leading the charge is the puppetmaster, Dick Cheney. Christian Bale brings an impressive presence to the figure of the Vice President. We first meet him coming out of a bar drunk as a skunk after having gotten into a bar brawl with one of his coworkers. What this scene does as well as the scene that follows where he is lambasted by his faithful and ambitious girlfriend Lynne (Adams) is show you the journey of Dick Cheney and Bale sells it so well.
Physically Bale is going for it. This isn’t the first time he has manipulated his body to sell a performance but his transformation is astounding and needs to be appreciated. He’s a hell of an actor.
He’s a tremendous figure, frightening and ambitious in equal measures but what is so disturbing is he never raises his voice even during the most horrendous acts in modern history are perpetrated around him (most are given the go-ahead by him). Matching Bale tit for tat is Amy Adams who is the fire under which Cheney got his intensity. Lynne Adams is equally as ambitious and supports him through the many events in his life.
They are a powerful couple and like Adams, herself states in the film, “When you have power people will alwats try to take it from you always”. To give you an idea of the kind of person she is I will let you know that she says this to her 10-year-old daughter.
It also has to be noted the technical structure behind Vice. McKay sets up the audience several times in the film with a lot of clichéd moments you expect from a biopic and then flips the script giving you several surprising scenes peppered with levity.
One in particular scene in the second act had me laughing hysterically in disbelief. There is also a thematic element set up when Cheney is preparing to land the hammer so to speak. It’s the perfect audio element that you may not even notice unless you’re listening out for it but if you hear it you’ll have a little chuckle as it is set up narratively early in the first act.
My biggest gripe with Vice is that it meanders throughout Cheney’s life and career for far too long. It’s 132 minutes long and I think the film could have been cut down by at least 10 minutes.
Vice is a fascinating film and one that anyone who is a “fan” of today’s political landscape will find deeply engaging. Check it out and let us know what you thought.