“It was the fucking 1980’s and it was a hell of a time to be Dick Cheney”Review by Lily Taylor
So apparently this movie is staring Christian Bale but if his name hadn’t been in the opening credits, I honestly wouldn’t have guessed it was him! Bale plays Dick Cheney, Vice President to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and prominent political arsehole. Cheney’s journey to The White House is narrated by a young veteran of the Iraq War with an undisclosed relationship to Cheney himself. The story begins in 1963 when Dick Cheney drops out of college, gets a DUI and receives a bollocking from his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) within approximately 10 minutes. Flash forward six years and Cheney secures a job working for Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) as a White House intern while Lynne cares for their two young daughters.
Despite being a college dropout, Dick Cheney’s political career is on the rise and he decides to run for office in Wyoming. Cue heart attack numero uno. Poor old Dick is hospitalised following a heart attack, leaving Lynne to run things on his behalf. She is truly the fire that seems to kick start his whole campaign, she’s like a real life Lesley Knope (but less of a fan of racial or gender equality). After a few more political stepping stones, the details of which I won’t bore you with, Dick Cheney is invited to be Bush’s running mate in the 2000 Presidential Election. Cheney manipulates Bush into granting him certain ‘executive responsibilities’ that a Vice President typically wouldn’t be involved in.
Using his position in the Bush administration, Dick Cheney launches U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. He uses The Unitary Executive Theory to sanction torture of captives and the killing of civilians. The idea behind this theory is basically that The President, and by extension Dick Cheney, is allowed to do whatever the hell they want regardless of the potential cost in lives or money- good stuff huh? Hopefully nobody tells Trump about that one!
The direction from Adam McKay was on point throughout and I loved the attention to detail. McKay uses quick snapshots to bring us up to speed on certain historical events which was both effective and innovative, and I believe a technique he has a bit of a penchant for judging by his previous works. Before Cheney decides to be Bush’s running mate, we see him at home with Lynne, his daughters and their dogs and the credits begin to roll after a seemingly happy ending. The credits end abruptly and Dick goes on to cause political havoc and become estranged from his youngest daughter by taking a stand against gay rights. I thought this was pure genius, a sarcastic comment on what could have been if Cheney had been a better man. In a quirky cinematic twist, Dick and Lynne recite Shakespeare to each other representing a conversation around Cheney’s upcoming meeting with Bush; in a film with such serious undertones it really helps to captivate the audience.
A particularly unique scene takes place in The White House where names and even actual faces have been redacted from the scene. The whole thing was so unique and politically charged but in a truly accessible way. Brilliant performances by almost the entire cast; Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell stood out for me as being particularly entertaining and their character development and ageing was carried out to perfection. There’s also a wonderful plot twist involving our narrator, but you’ll have to actually watch the film for that one.
‘Vice’ was not quite a perfect film in my opinion. The main thing that soured it slightly for me was that the heavy politics of the story doesn’t quite captivate the audience for the length of the film, at times I felt bogged down a little in the narrative. I feel it might have been better to strip down the content and focus on Cheney’s role as Vice President with less focus on the lengthy build up. That being said, the ultimate message behind the film and the exposé of Cheney’s colourful political career stuck with me long after the real credits rolled.