Film Review: Vice

08:00 January 03, 2019
By: David Vicari

This movie of Dick Cheney's rise to power is scattershot in its storytelling, but that actually works for the movie, giving it a surreal quality. The tone here isn't stark, serious drama, but darkly funny and irreverent. What I saw in Vice, directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyThe Other GuysThe Big Short), was shades of both Robert Altman and Louis Bunuel. I can totally watch a triple feature of ViceM*A*S*H (1970) and The Phantom of Liberty (1974).

McKay's film chronicles Dick Cheney's climb up the political ladder, first as a staffer to Donald Rumsfeld. Later, Cheney would serve as vice president of the United States from 2001 to 2009 under President George W. Bush, a position that Cheney accepted with the understanding that he would be able to wield more executive power than the role allows.

Christian Bale plays Cheney in an extraordinary performance. His transformation into Cheney is so complete that the actor is unrecognizable. It's definitely a nuanced performance as Bale even gives his subject a twinkle of humanity. The rest of the cast is sensational too. Amy Adams is Cheney's wife Lynne, who is just as power hungry as her husband, Steve Carell is a bitter and constipated Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell hilariously plays George W. as a bumpkin.

In a very entertaining way, the movie plays with the realization that it is a movie. Characters often break the fourth wall, like the everyman narrator (Jesse Plemons), who is our guide throughout the film. A bedroom conversation between Dick and Lynne becomes a scene from Shakespeare's Macbeth. Then there is the fake happy ending in the middle of the movie telling us that the Cheneys got out of politics in support of their gay daughter. McKay even has fun with the fact that the movie clearly leans to the left politically.

Yes, Vice is often funny, but at its core it is a biting commentary about political corruption that is shocking and infuriating.   

*** ½ out of four

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