Vice uses shocking visuals and a playful, though bizarre, filmmaking style to send it’s timely political message home. Based on the true story of Dick Cheney’s rise from relative obscurity as a ne’er-do-well to Vice President of the United States, the clear message about corruption in politics will either resonate or repel, depending on your opinion.
Outside of the flash and bang albeit entertaining gimmickry, there is little substance to Vice outside of another all-star performance from Christian Bale (Batman Begins, American Hustle,) the master of bodily change for his film roles.
Bale reportedly gained 45 pounds to star as Dick Cheney throughout an extended period of his life, spanning from young to old. His spot-on impersonations are methodic, and couple with the lifeless charm he brings to add authenticity the role.
Amy Adams (American Hustle, Enchanted,) plays Dick Cheney’s fiancé and later wife Lynne. She adopts a classic Lady Macbeth role in getting Cheney step up to the plate and take his life seriously, then to seize power where possible. Her intelligence, and string pulling are portrayed as a large chunk of how Cheney came to power. Adams does great service to humanize and add nuance to the strength of Lynne’s guidance from the background.
Steve Carell (The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin,) plays a very convincing Donald Rumsfeld, who teaches Cheney the ropes about becoming a DC politician. What may have been a mentor/mentee relationship quickly develops into a professional friendship that spans decades, and multiple presidencies.
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Choke,) gets a few scene-stealing bits as George W. Bush, while Tyler Perry (Madea, Gone Girl,) gets a chance to play Colin Powell. The cameos are as much fun as watching Saturday Night Live, but without any slapstick or fanfare to point out that everyone is joking around.
Writer/director/producer Adam McKay (The Big Short, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,) brings a whole lot of funny to his portrayal of a dark time in US history. There is no doubt that this compilation of decades of potshots at Dick Cheney are designed to make us laugh, if only to help us tolerate glimpsing the ghastly underbelly of the beast – not to honor a hero whose praises are worth singing, like many other biopics.
Vice could easily have starred McKay’s buddy and business partner Will Ferrell as Dick Cheney, and it would have shifted this comedy from dark to screwball, and still worked on a comic level. But the choice of serious players Bale and Adams gives the movie more clout in the message it’s trying to convey.
Vice will be abrasive and hard to handle, or laugh-out-loud vindication, depending on where the audience stands politically. The many fine performances by an all-star cast may be overshadowed by the blunt message clubbing down every scene. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new to reveal about Cheney – his record is public and anyone who was interested has already seen this history transpire.
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