Vice Review

The Plot

The Big Short director Adam McKay presents a similarly cynical portrait of Dick Chenny. Charting his ruthless rise as a politician and businessman, culminating in his controversial time as a uniquely all powerful American Vice President.

The Good

Christian Bale achieves the seemingly impossible task of physically transforming himself into the stocky bulldog like Dick Cheney. It’s an astonishing achievement in method acting and make up that allows the Batman star to convincingly portray the iconic political powerhouse. He’s able to portray each step in Cheney’s unlikely journey from angry young man to calculating grey haired war monger. Bale’s polished impression of Cheney’s low growling voice and thinly veiled ruthlessness fits equally well with the well-known perceptions of the man considered to have truly pulled the strings behind the Bush presidency.

A solid supporting cast and director Adam McKay’s knack for punchy storytelling helps to keep audiences interested in Cheney’s stubborn rise to unconventional and allegedly unlimited power.  Along the way the film crafts a mostly unsympathetic portrait of Cheney that will satisfy those who gleeful regard him as the quintessential right wing political villain. The combined ensemble talents of Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell and Amy Adams also helps to make up for Cheney’s own well noted charisma vacuum. They do a good job of rehashing the history of 9/11 and the Iraq war with convincing impressions of all the key players.

The Bad

While it’s impossible to fault Bale’s transformative performance, there is still a genuine lack of charisma surrounding the character. Ironically this is precisely the point the film seeks to make, that Cheney’s drab and dreary persona allowed him to operate largely without public scrutiny and necessary oversight. Unfortunately despite the filmmaker’s best efforts the film never quite succeeds in either demonising or humanising him fully. Cheney’s famously secretive and intensely private nature makes it seemingly impossible to decipher him in any fresh or meaningful way.

Likewise the political history of the Iraq war seems both overly familiar to audiences who likely already have very firmly entrenched views on the subject and also seems somehow already far less relevant to a world currently gripped by a dramatic new landscape of global problems.

The Ugly Truth

Vice has an appealing all-star cast who manage to make relatively recent history feel fairly dramatic. An almost unrecognisable star turn from Christian Bale is undoubtedly its main attraction, aggressively reminding audiences of Dick Cheney’s discretely colossal impact on American and the world beyond.

Review by Russell Nelson

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