Meaning the consequences are all too real.
If there was ever any doubt what side of the political spectrum Adam McKay falls on, look no further than Vice.
This isn’t one of those nice, positive biopics that’s made out of awe and respect, though. Oh, no. This is a damning, unforgiving look into all the cruel and manipulative things that Cheney did during his time in office and the ways in which that set up the political mess that we’re living in today.
Vice opens with a quick preface that tells the audience that there really isn’t a whole lot of information about Cheney that’s available to the public. He might have worked for the White House as a Chief of Staff for President General Ford, Secretary of Defense for President George H.W. Bush and Vice President for George W. Bush, sure, but he was also incredibly secretive about the things he did both in and out of office.
“But we tried our f**cking best,” the opening text reads.
We then cut to Cheney inside the White House bunker on 9/11. While he’s being swarmed with a bunch of people with panicked and uncertain looks on their face, we focus in on Cheney, who’s keeping himself calm, collected and focused.
“For everyone else, this was a moment of national emergency,” the film’s narrator, played by Jesse Plemons, tells us. “For Cheney, it was an opportunity.”
Again, not hard to see that McKay has no love for this man whatsoever.
Vice then goes head-first into how Cheney — who was, at first, nothing more than a lineman from Wyoming who spent most nights passed out in a bar — was able to rig the entire political system to work in his favor.
Part of it had to do with his wife, Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams), who told Dick that she was going to leave him if he didn’t get his act together and become someone in the world.
Most of it, though, just had to do with his quest for power. From the moment that he walked inside the White House to intern for Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell, who is in literally everything this year), Cheney worked at manipulating people and getting his way from the outside in.
Then, come 2000, George Bush (Sam Rockwell) — who gets a really, really bad rap in this film — asks him to be his vice president. While Cheney is unconvinced at first, he quickly realizes that Bush doesn’t have all too strong of leadership skills, meaning all of his presidential power would be right there for the taking to be conformed into his own wants and beliefs.
What are those beliefs, you ask?
There’s a great moment pretty early on in Vice when Cheney asks Rumsfeld that exact same question.
“What is it, exactly, that we believe in, sir?” He asks. “What are we trying to accomplish here?”
Rumsfeld’s response? Laughter. Pure, unadulterated laughter that goes on and on and on.
It’s no mystery, then, why Vice was gotten such mixed reviews since its release. Politics is, without a doubt, the most divisive topic of conversation in our world today. Given that Vice doesn’t necessarily attempt to reach across the aisle and pulls absolutely no punches, there are, of course, going to be people who don’t respond to it.
I, however, kind of think it works in this context.
In Vice, Dick Cheney isn’t necessarily portrayed as a layered person. There are very few attempts to humanize the man, other than a few intimate moments with his daughter, played by Allison Pill and Lily Rabe. Other than that, Cheney and several other individuals are painted as straight-monsters who are responsible for the political mess that we’re into today (there are more than a few subtle Trump jabs thrown in there).
That might not make for the most morally responsible filmmaking, but McKay is well-aware of this. He’s not trying to be responsible (or, maybe he initially was, but there wasn’t enough information there to do so). He’s just trying to make sense out of all this.
Vice really seems like it comes out of a place of fear and frustrating for McKay. Perhaps the reason he doesn’t feel the need to portray Cheney in a fair light is because he doesn’t feel that Cheney served America in a fair, just way.
Similar to The Big Short (which I ultimately think is still a better movie), Vice then becomes an angry, vindictive look into where our world is today and where we’re headed if we keep it up. Maybe that is pretty one-sided and grim, yes, but it’s also the kind of slap-in-the-face that we need.
Also like The Big Short, McKay is also, somehow, able to portray all of this in a humorous light. Not humorous in the same way that Step Brothers is funny, but rather in a ‘let’s all laugh at how screwed we all are’ light that does the movie a lot of favors.
It’s impossible to talk about Vice without mentioning some of the performances in here. Christian Bale once again undergoes a massive transformation for a role, this time gaining all kinds of weight so that he has almost the exact same physical appearance as Dick Cheney. The result is pretty uncanny. He’s got the look, the talk and that cold, lifeless stare down flat, to the point where, at times, it feels like we’re watching the real Cheney instead of a performance.
On the supporting side of things, we also get some terrific performances from both Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell. The sad part, though, is that both of these roles are clearly that — supporting. Despite their brilliance, neither of them really get a whole lot to do in Vice, which left me wanting more.
While the film’s pacing can also be a bit shaky in some place (they try to cover his entire life within the movie, meaning we’re flying through some stuff while other moments are really drawn out), Vice is still a well-crafted, important film that points a smoking gun right at some people McKay feels are to blame for the current state of things. It’s pretty harsh, but it’s also not hard to tell that harsh is exactly what they were going for.
Watch the trailer for Vice here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the film!
'Vice' - It's like 'House of Cards' in real life [REVIEW]8