NOT THE TV SHOW, THOUGH I HAVE TO THINK THEY’D APPROVE
Movie Review – Vice
Review by Paul Preston
In an era of studios either running scared from risk and/or acting like franchise whores, what a thrill to see a real director-driven movie in Adam McKay’s Vice. The promise McKay showed with his Oscar-winning The Big Short continues as he proves to be just as adept at tackling big subjects as drawing big laughs.
There is a LOT of movie in Vice, as McKay and his team tell of the rise to power of Dick Cheney, who they claim is the most secretive politician in history. McKay pulls out all the stops, with meta gags, blood-draining drama and broad re-telling of outrageous moments. Occasionally, it’s as if he’s spoofing the biopic genre itself. DP Greig Fraser and Oscar-nominated editor Hank Corwin provide a production pace that is lightning fast. Blink and you miss something. You are encouraged and perhaps forced to be an active participant in this movie.
Early in his career, Cheney’s wife Lynne (ably played by Amy Adams) gives him a “get your act together” speech or he will lose her. So, if you’re not a fan of Dick Cheney, you can trace his desire to succeed back to that moment. Cheney then starts down the road to the White House by seeking an intern position with Donald Rumsfeld which leads to a Chief of Staff position, which leads to a House of Reprentatives seat and so on to the Vice Presidency.
Christian Bale disappears into the role of Cheney, with exceptionally good makeup and the “he disappeared into the role” standard of greatness we’ve come to expect from Bale (helped much by Oscar-winning makeup). Supporting players are also excellent across the board, but it’s Steve Carell as Rumsfeld, who nailed the character arc from braggadocio highs to dismissed lows, who seems to have been unfortunately left off Oscar’s ballot.
More than any other film of his, Vice has Adam McKay’s thumbprint all over it, and the film is better for it. He has a goal to remind people, while George W. Bush passes for warm and fuzzy as he shares candy with Michelle Obama, that many of the events under the Bush/Cheney administration were world-changing in negative ways – torture, Guantanmo Bay, rendition and unitary executive power. There’s no mention of Trump in the film, but when Vice hustles to cover as much ground as it does, it’s clearly laying out that the cavalcade of power grabs in the ‘90s have set up a system where now we have a President who has said he can pardon himself for his wrongdoing.
McKay even gives Cheney the last word, laying out exactly why he’s acted the way he has, for the betterment of America. Then he turns around and calls himself out for being liberal claptrap, so haters can’t even go after him for that. Get pissed if you want, but Vice is a masterpiece.
Directed by: Adam McKay
Release Date: December 25, 2018
Run Time: 132 Minutes
Distributor: Annapurna Distribution