The start of the aughts began with the Y2K scare, and by the end of 2000, the results were in for the most controversial
at the time election in American history, and by January of 2001, Richard Bruce Cheney was sworn in and became the most powerful Vice President in the history of the United States. After two terms and an additional 9 years, we get a look into the life of the man who was second-in-command in the new biopic Vice. The film’s title may be a pun on the word vice, defined as immoral and wicked behavior, which is something Cheney has been accused of since he’s left office. Adam McKay serves as the director and writer of the comedy-drama that stars Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. Spoilers after the trailer.
Christian Bale’s dedication to his craft is unparalleled, and in Vice his transformation into Dick Cheney is one of his best transformations of his career. To prepare for the role and to look more like Cheney’s doppelganger, not only did Bale gain weight, but he also did exercises solely focusing on his neck to get the perfect diameter for the role, so his head didn’t look too small for the rest of his body.
Commitment! His hard work paid off because visually he has the look of Dick Cheney down. Check out the photo for the right to compare. The comparisons do not stop at the visual aspect, but Bale’s performance is spot on in accuracy. The way that Christian Bale naturally speaks, it looks like he’s talking out the side of his mouth, and coincidentally, Dick Cheney also speaks this way, which makes Bale the perfect person to portray him. Bale mastered Cheney’s cadences and speech patterns to create one of the most immaculate performances of 2018.
Christian Bale’s castmates bring serviceable performances as well. Amy Adams portrays Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell is Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell is George W. Bush. Of those three, Rockwell’s Bush steals the show. He has Bush’s mannerisms, speeches, accents, and it’s one of the best Bush impressions that I’ve ever seen. Rockwell pulls off that sense of cluelessness that Bush gave off when he was president over a decade ago. There’s a funny scene where Bush asks Cheney to be his running mate, and the look of disgust on Cheney’s face is priceless. That look of disgust didn’t stop with Dick Cheney, his wife Lynne thought of George W. Bush as a goof and the black sheep of his family.
Amy Adams has a decorous performance as the former Second Lady of the United States. At first, Lynne Cheney was not happy with her husband’s decision to run with Bush, she even called being VP a “nothing position,” because the VP didn’t have much power until her husband was in office. To make matters worse, at the time, Cheney would be running with someone she did not respect that much. Lynne feels slighted throughout the film because she’s a woman and doesn’t get opportunities like her male counterparts, which is something she teaches her daughters about. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” she even calls out her husband’s mentor Donald Rumsfeld.
Carrell’s Donald Rumsfeld is passable. He has a few funny jokes that play up to the fact that he was the youngest and, later, the second-oldest person, to be Secretary of Defense. During Rumsfeld’s first run as Secretary of Defense he was a mentor to a young Dick Cheney, and this is where Cheney realized that he wanted to be wherever the person with power was. Vice does a salvable job of showing us that side of Dick Cheney. Once Cheney becomes the Vice President he reaches out to his old friend and gets Rumsfeld the job as Secretary of Defense. Carrell’s performance magnifies Rumsfeld being old and out of touch to an almost comedic level. The tone switches back to somber ones once Cheney tells Rumsfeld he’s going to have to resign because he’s not equipped with being the Secretary of Defense for the modern age.
The film has narration provided by Jesse Plemons, and throughout the film his quips are interwoven perfectly with certain plot points in the movie. The little plot twist that McKay uses to explain who Plemons’s character is, and why he’s the one telling the story, was clever. The story of the film is structured in a mostly linear manner, the way his narration is set up at the beginning of the film, it leaves you thinking that maybe Cheney has a kid out-of-wedlock that we don’t know about, but instead, later on McKay uses that as a MacGuffin and successfully executes the misdirection.
McKay’s style of filmmaking works more effectively when Vice relies on its comedy instead of drama. The dramatic elements of the film, like Cheney’s numerous heart attacks, didn’t have much weight or a gut punch to them. Cheney is presented in a way where the audience does not have many reasons to sympathize with him, which may be because of McKay’s political bias. A lot of
Conservative viewers are mad because the film has a political slant to it, which didn’t bother me. The biggest issue I had with Vice was its writing for most of the film. The movie seems uneven at times because when humor juxtaposes drama in this movie it comes off as messy. Most of the characters are caricatures of themselves, so when something drastic like September 11th happens, the stakes do not feel as high as the movie tries to make them. If McKay focuses on the two best characters, Cheney and Bush, then Vice would’ve been more enjoyable. Rockwell and Bale were magnificent, and the way the film was written those two characters would’ve been incredible in a buddy comedy. As a buddy comedy, McKay would’ve been able to use drama to buildup towards a climax and gave Vice a proper climax. Instead, McKay wrote most of the characters as caricatures, and then he would dial back and try to make them as a normal person, yet during a post-credit scene, Cheney has a monologue that he might as well be a Batman villain.
Overall, Vice has a spectacular performance from its lead actor in Christian Bale, and on that front I would recommend checking it out because he will be nominated for this upcoming awards season for Best Actor. I’m not sure if he’s going to win because outside of his performance this film was pretty forgettable. Adam McKay knows how to create a well-shot film, but the writing in this one needed some touching up to make it more memorable. Also, Madea (Tyler Perry) plays Colin Powell and he didn’t bring anything to that character. As far as movies that were based on a true story or biopics released in 2018, Vice is the caboose in a long line of films that were funnier, shot better, had a better story and better execution. Vice is a film, like the voting machines in Florida from the controversial election that made Cheney the veep that once you recount it, it results into a blurred finish and an underwhelming conclusion.
[All Mames Wey]