Vice – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemons
In cinemas January 25th
Chances are you have already heard a lot about this movie since Christian Bale has been winning such acclaim for his portrayal of Dick Cheney the former VP of America. However, you may not know that much about Cheney’s background unless you are a diehard fan of political history. I know I certainly didn’t and to be honest, I found this all the more entertaining for that. At the beginning of the movie it is acknowledged that Cheney plays his card pretty close to his chest but they have tried to be as factual as possible (they articulate it somewhat more crudely but you get the picture). McKay then proceeds to take you on a back and forth roller-coaster through Cheney’s life and career beginning with – of all things – a drunken bar brawl and an arrest! Not exactly what you’d expect from a future VP of America but enough to keep you engaged.
Narrated by Kurt (Plemons), a fictitious veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, we jump through Cheney’s life and career. McKay is not known for straightforward narratives and this is no exception. We have a fantasy credits sequence mid film, a lot of time hopping, metaphor and celebrity cameos explaining what is going on. I won’t go through the gory details of the whole plot here – it took Cheney a lifetime to live it and so isn’t really straightforward – but suffice to say that his road to the White House was far from conventional and that he is an incredibly complex character which gives Bale plenty to work with. Aside from his astonishing physical transformation he really seems to relish playing this completely contradictory and contentious character. The plaudits are well deserved. His performance is a tour de force. He is ably supported by Adams as his extremely pushy and ambitious wife Lynne, Carell as his mentor turned minion Donald Rumsfeld and Rockwell as a surprisingly convincing George W Bush.
This is as much a political satire as a fact based drama and will leave your mind completely boggled by the Machiavellian tendencies of those involved. At times it is so ludicrous that you can’t help but laugh despite knowing that this is based on fact. At other times you will gasp at the tragic truths and horrors portrayed. Cheney was somewhat Bush’s puppet master and his cold hearted maliciousness is astonishing even allowing for the fact it may have been amped up for this.
Although the narrative is somewhat scattered and the pacing suffers in parts this always remains entertaining. It is slightly too long and rambling in places and could easily be 20 minutes shorter but when it lands it lands big, so you forgive it. It never quite manages to fully explain the complexities of the American political system – but let’s face it they only had a couple of hours. Despite this you leave feeling more informed than you went in (a lady beside me at the screening gasped at some of the facts displayed in the credits!). Extremely thought provoking and with a remarkable lead performance this is definitely worth your cinema admission fee.