Dick Cheney, the vicious and sly former US vice-president is brought to life in a raw and hysterical way from Adam McKay. Cheney sees what others could not, including the easy manipulation of George W. Bush whispering radical ideas in a calculated-villain-like-way. The rawness of the film routes from Bale’s impeccably scary impersonation of the former vice-president and his non-existent ethical and moral morality.
Vice follows Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) along his rise to power, detailing everything known in his many years leading up to working with George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) as vice-president. Tagging along is Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams), the Cheney children and the funny-yet-dastardly Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). Adam McKay’s Vice is entertaining and utterly cynical, Cheney’s relationships are severed by the tick of the clock due to his nihilist nature. Bale is unrecognisable and delivers perhaps a career best performance in a film that is fast, unapologetic and brash.
Adam McKay’s distinct vision of Vice relies a lot on found footage and layering a deeply complex underpinning in the film’s structural ‘chaos’ in a good way. With McKay’s past you wouldn’t be surprised to hear this film will make you gasp and giggle searingly throughout, a lot of the humour is visual and routed in the performances rather than always dialogue it owes a lot to the film’s precise editing.
As the film starts off with the usual “based on a true story” but then we get a certain line that sets the tone in a vastly different direction, McKay guns against right-wing politicians, Fox News and perhaps exposing more unknown elements that lay behind closed doors. Bleeping and blurring occurs in a ridiculously hysterical scene that to this day, what was said is unknown but showcases McKay’s visual humour in a beautifully-silly way.
The film is narrated by an unknown narrator (Jesse Plemons), who knows everything about Cheney and his goings on. We splice back and forth in time, but he continuously returns laying extra mystery and exposition throughout. Vice lays very close to the record, not expanding on much else from what is currently known and the stories of Cheney’s actions are looked down upon (McKay isn’t a fan) but also recognising his impressive intellect and manipulation in power to which he is painted as a silent monster.
To my surprise the film looks beautiful, with various stunning cutaways showcasing nature among the rather hectic use of handheld shots it helps to launch you as the spectator into an uncomfortable-giddy ride looking at this villain (of sorts) plot out schemes of power and destruction under everyone’s noses. The lighting is masterful with the shining light upon the water, the shadows and silhouettes all combine to create an alluring world in a film about chaos.
Bale shows Cheney’s journey from on the ground to the highest of highs, becoming the immobile, sly and cunning man who took control of everything. He moves rapidly from job to job, to heart problems to more heart problems – this is seen in the fast-never-stopping pace of the film.
This all relates back to today with the notion of the President not having power, but strung along by figures looming behind – perhaps McKay’s film is a critique of Trump’s era, but nevertheless the issues prove to be timeless. The film serves as a massive dig on Cheney and what he did, it ties to ISIL and the fact that through his administration’s public statements about one man it caused an organisation far more terrifying than perhaps they were faced with at the time. Also as the film nears completion this is uttered “We have conservative TV and radio to do our yelling for us.” again rounding out the notion of continued strategy in America’s current political climate.
Vice is an incredibly raw, visceral and humorous film with McKay putting his heart into the heartless. Bale is formidably puissant in this transformative role.
VICE IS OUT IN US CINEMAS NOW & IN UK CINEMAS THIS MONTH
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