Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, & Sam Rockwell
Directed By: Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Big Short)
Runtime: 2 hours 12 minutes
Vice, as I’m sure you’re aware of by now, is the biopic detailing Dick Cheney’s rise from a Yale drop out to most powerful Vice President in American history. And as much as I don’t like discussing politics because it’s divisive, it no longer creates conversation just argument, it’s impossible to separate the two topics here. This is a movie. It also political.
Although not the consistent hatchet job I went in expecting, it does tend to cherry pick incidents that make Cheney look bad. The majority of the movie, however, tries to stay balanced and cover the man and his rise to power. Christian Bale plays Cheney and disappears into the role. The voice, the look, Cheney’s mannerisms, all nailed perfectly by the Welsh Academy Award winner. Amy Adams is just as good portraying Dick’s wife, Lynne. I think Lynne actually comes off looking worse in this movie than Dick. She’s made out to be a power hungry monster, while Bale’s character seems colder and more willing to go with the flow.
Steve Carell does an expert job as Donald Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell does an OK job in a difficult role of playing President George W. Bush. We’ve seen so many impressions of Dubya it’s hard to shed new light on that. Tyler Perry takes a really nice dramatic turn as Colin Powell. I highlight all these performances because they are wasted in a movie that features too many gimmicks. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Either way, all of them are unnecessary. Vice is annoyingly meta.
Director Adam McKay gained critical success by breaking down the complicated issue of the financial crisis in 2015’s The Big Short. He used these amazing non-sequiturs to relay the vast amount of info he was throwing at you throughout the movie. Here he uses similar tactics that just aren’t necessary. A straight up biopic would have been the better movie. Cause as the movie admits in the first thirty seconds, we don’t know a lot about Vice President Dick Cheney. It would be nice if this movie had gotten to the bottom of who he is.
Instead we’re left with a tale of a powerful man and the woman behind him pulling the strings. Which is interesting. The movie just never bothers to ask what motivated Dick Cheney along the way besides his nagging wife. Which very well might have been the sole thing that drove Cheney along the way, but I doubt it.
A lot of people are calling Vice a two hour long SNL sketch or a hit job. I actually didn’t see it as that. There definitely were a few scenes along the way that came off as such, but overall, the movie does go out of its way to show that Dick Cheney was the consummate family man. Often declining to advance his own career out of fear that his daughter Mary, who happens to be gay, would become an unnecessary target. He made it a priority to protect her. So Vice isn’t all negative. But the more conservative you are, the more you will hate this movie.
Vice has a scene after the credits, about halfway through, that is nothing more than an attempt to defend itself from critiques, two men in a focus group argue whether or not the movie is liberal trash. Meanwhile a younger woman wants to know when the next Fast and Furious movie comes out. The scene does two things, attacks itself before anyone else can. Usually a sure sign of doing something wrong or dishonest. Secondly, it also calls the audience stupid without saying it. Americans won’t like this movie cause it doesn’t have explosions. If you don’t like Vice or didn’t get it, you must be stupid. Which is a hack move, in my eyes.
As it stands, Vice contains some of the best performances of the year. It has moments of humor in an engrossing story. But I left the theater focused more on the wasted potential of the movie that could have been. A more dramatic retelling of the movie’s events could have been one of the best movies of the year. Instead, we got a movie that’s too cute for its own good.
On a scale of "See It/Stream It/Skip It" I'd vote skip it. If you’re an awards junkie, if you go to A LOT of movies, then I’d vote stream it. Otherwise, I’d say you can skip it. The performances whether you agree with the politics of the movie or not, are worth seeing.
If you liked The Big Short or W you might like Vice
2.5 out of 5 stars for Vice. Not enough good to recommend, not AS BAD as they’re saying. Still…not great.