As a kid growing-up in the early 2000s, my distinct memory of the younger Bush’s administration was rather negative. I saw the rise and fall of an unpopular presidency. The reason I’m bringing this up is because the film, Vice, is based on the life of George W. Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, also referred to as the infamous “Darth Vader”. This movie is Director Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short (2015). Thankfully, in spite of the similar odd film editing structure, this film contains a fantastic lead performance from Christian Bale with great supporting roles to back him up. It’s the ultra conservatives’ worst nightmare.
Vice is told primarily from a perspective of a random narrative character, played by Jesse Plemons (Game Night, 2018), who claims to know Dick Cheney personally. I find this sort of narration a bit distracting, but Plemons’ character does make some funny and insightful observations about Cheney. The movie, segmented much the same way as was The Big Short, has its characters “break the fourth wall” by trying to trick the audience into creating the illusion that Cheney lived happily ever after, when clearly that was not the case.
In terms of acting performances, Christian Bale is nothing short of a miracle as Dick Cheney, not just in terms of makeup, which is fantastically done, but also in his mannerisms, personality, and weight gain. His extreme physical transformations in his film roles may just be the end of him. Cheney is portrayed in the film as a cruel man who used slimy tactics to climb to his higher office. Subtle it isn’t, and I appreciate their decision to hold back no punches. The great supporting cast includes Amy Adams as his wife, Lynne Cheney, who is supportive of the Conservative agenda. Sam Rockwell impersonates “Dubya”, George W. Bush, and the film could have probably used more of him. Steve Carell is great as the ruthless Donald Rumsfeld, a man who had a huge influence on Cheney’s political life, and Tyler Perry shows up for a few scenes as Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, the seemingly only semi-reasonable man in a Cabinet of crooks. The film does put a heavy focus on Cheney’s children, particularly Mary’s “coming out” and how that affected him professionally.
Vice’s editing choices lead to funny but awkward situations. It could be said there is too much effort made to tie Cheney to the world of Conservative politics: Fox News✔, Donald Trump ✔ , and news clips related to momentous decisions from politicians at the time from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Jeff Sessions. It all seems a bit too obvious to me.
The production design of the film is great with special mention going to Nicholas Britell’s terrific and enjoyable musical score (The Big Short and Moonlight). He gives Dick Cheney a very big and booming theme, and there is also a sweet, little family theme. Both of these being very intentionally misleading.
Vice is both an entertaining and frustrating watch. Bale is terrific in the lead, but storywise, the movie is haphazardly put together. I like a good beating of a terrible man, but it didn’t quite work entirely well. That being said, the performances are so good and the movie is funny enough I can recommend you see it.
Now playing in Hanover at the Nugget Theater: Monday - Thursday at 4:10 and 6:45, Friday and Sunday at 4:10, 6:45, and 9:15, and Saturday at 1:30, 4:10, 6:45, and 9:15