Vice is a 2018 political, dramedy from writer/director Adam McKay starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, and Sam Rockwell. McKay, best known for his comedy work with Will Ferrell (Step Brothers, The Other Guys, Talladega Nights), brings the story of the unassuming former Vice President Dick Cheney to the big screen. In an almost spiritual sequel to his 2015 critical hit The Big Short, McKay once again shows a satirical approach to real life events.
Vice begins with the early days of the former VP in the 1960’s. Cheney (Bale) is a failing college student with a heavy drinking problem. Cheney is guided out of these hard times by his wife Lynne (Adams). She convinces him to clean up his act and make something of himself. Flash-forward a few years later, Cheney has found himself as an intern for Donald Rumsfeld (Carell).
Cheney continues to work as a DC insider for nearly three decades. He leaves the public life after one of his two daughters comes out as gay. Cheney becomes a CEO of an oil company during this time, accumulating a great amount of wealth and power. Cheney is invited by George W. Bush (Rockwell) to be his running mate and Vice President during the 2000 Presidential Election.
Cheney realizes the opportunity at hand, a chance to become the most powerful and influential VP in this nation’s history. Cheney accepts the offer from Bush, under one condition. Bush authorizes “mundane” executive power such as foreign policy, energy, and military to Cheney. Cheney uses this power to change not only The United States, but the world as we know it.
What I Liked
McKay brings his style that he first used in The Big Short to Vice. Vice is intercut with real life footage, a fourth-wall breaking narrator, and comedic moments to break down tension. This style can make or break the movie for some viewers. This style was used much more effectively in this film compared to The Big Short. It never took me out of the film, it only enhanced what was on the screen.
Bale and Carell join McKay from the cast of The Big Short, and provided excellent performances as Cheney and Rumsfeld respectively. Carell shines using both his comedic chops, as well as his ability to a complete narcissist. Bale becomes nearly unrecognizable under the makeup and body transformation he went through to play Cheney. As the saying goes behind every powerful man, is a powerful woman.
Amy Adams brings a strong, powerful presence as Lynne Cheney. As much as this is “the Dick Cheney movie”, it should not go unrecognized as to how influential Lynne was in his life. She becomes his driving force to enter politics in the first act, the one that continues his political push in the second act, and by the final act enters a place of power in the U.S. Government herself.
What Could Have Been Improved
As said earlier, the stylistic approach to Vice improves upon what McKay was going for in The Big Short. The use of a single narrator keeps the story focused, and never takes the viewer out of the story being told. That being said, one scene in particular goes for a stylistic choice that does not pan out. All I will say about the scene is the use of Shakespearean dialogue didn’t work in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and it doesn’t work here.
The only other minor complaints I have of the film did not deter from my enjoyment and investment in it. I felt the use of military combat scenes were unnecessary to the story McKay was trying to tell. It deviated from the main character study of Cheney, and enter into the realm of a completely different film. Lastly, this is a film on the rise to power by Dick Cheney, but I could have used more scenes between him and Bush. Rockwell gives a perfect satirical approach to Bush, and the film could have used more screen time from the former Academy Award Winner.
Vice could have come off as a cheap, feature length Saturday Night Live sketch, with actors playing carictures of political figures. Instead, McKay delivers a film with strong performances by the entire cast, witty dialogue, and deep character moments that may surprise some viewers. This movie is not for everyone. If you are looking for the Anchorman version of the Bush administration, this is not it. But, if you enjoyed The Big Short, Vice is sure to deliver the same wit and sharp satire that you are looking for.
Overall score 4/5
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Review by Casey Kelderman, Back Lot 605 Co-Host