The story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.
Adam McKay’s follow up to ‘The Big Short’ is another wildly inventive and tonal mashup, this time turning his attention to politics as opposed to the financial industry. The target of ‘Vice’ is former Vice President Dick Cheney, a man who managed to go under the radar to dramatically enhance the power of his office with significant consequences for the United States and the World. This is a political satire that delivers big laughs whilst also shedding light on some genuinely frightening events and I thought it was both superbly entertaining and deeply informative. I loved ‘The Big Short’ and this is basically that film on acid, and that sentence may help determine whether you’ll enjoy this film or not!
The approach ‘Vice‘ takes to telling Cheney’s story is all over the place, combining real footage, flashbacks, fourth wall breaking and numerous fake outs alongside the core story of how a seemingly bland man who stood for very little managed to rise to one of the highest offices in the United States. This approach worked for me but it won’t be for everyone and if the style of ‘The Big Short’ threw you off, ‘Vice’ really doubles down on that approach. Christian Bale stars as Cheney and it’s another dramatic transformation that we’ve been accustomed to seeing from Bale, hiding under prosthetics and serious weight gain. Bale is a terrific actor and he’s outstanding here at capturing the dull essence of Cheney as the supporting characters (Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in particular) play their roles with a more comedic slant.
As well as capturing how Cheney rose to power, McKay takes swipe at the state of US politics, using Cheney’s rise to explore how this in part led to events in the Middle East and developments in the US that led to the current administration. The approach is bitingly nihilistic and McKay throws a lot at the screen, not all of which sticks (the framing device with Jesse Plemons felt a step too far for me), but this is an ambitious biopic that uses an irreverent tone to mask a scathing critique of US politics and I found ‘Vice’ to be madly entertaining, if a little messy around the edges.
Directed By: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Tyler Perry, Jesse Plemons, Justin Kirk, Don McManus, LisaGay Hamilton, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Matthew Jacobs, Shea Whigham, Eddie Marsan, Stefania LaVie Owen, Adam Bartley, Kirk Bovill, Jillian Armenante, Bill Camp, Fay Masterson, Alfred Molina and Naomi Watts