Vice is the not so well known tale of how former US Vice President Dick Cheney rose to power over several decades through the US government and how he may have become the most dominant right-hand man in all of modern day politics. A surprise script and direction from Adam McKay has Christian Bale leading the Oscar buzz with his performance of the former VP. Tag along a cast of Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, and a voiceover from Jesse Plemons then you have yourself a bona fide piece of Oscar bait. Is that all Vice is? Oscar bait? Or is it the real deal? Perhaps people should have been asking Dick Cheney as many questions in the early 2000s.
Bale as Cheney: Christian Bale is very well known for his in-depth approach to creating a character and commitment to that role. It comes to no surprise that once again we see Bale absolutely transform into what could very well be just a character, but sadly this is a real human being. Bale imitates Cheney’s speech well enough, although if you are familiar with interviews the former VP has participated in you will notice Bale gives more slug-like pacing. This is not an accident. Combine the amazing prosthetic works by the film crew, Bale turns the former VP into a slimy slug that slowly separates sense from stupidity. It truly is a work of art. This may be Bale’s best performance on the big screen.
The McKay Touch: Adam McKay is no stranger to delivering complex theories and scenarios in a film to a possibly lost audience. He did the same thing with The Big Short wherein after the film was over every viewer felt like they had a 2-year college degree in economics. Voiceovers tend to be tacky and overplayed. Not only is the casting of Jesse Plemons for the part a good choice, but when he explains to us how and why the former VP was able to accomplish what he did, we feel as if we can lead a conversation in early 21st century foreign relations. Though recently McKay has tried to address more mature topics with his films, he is no stranger to the dull but explosive comedy (Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, The Other Guys). Just because there are no hilarious quotes taken from Vice does not mean it is barren of laughs. However, if you do laugh it is probably at the idiocy of the real-life conversations and decisions that are being played out before you on the screen. With that being said, Sam Rockwell is phenomenal if not slightly over exaggerated as the former President George W. Bush. There are some liberties taken with this role. Rockwell makes a very extreme interpretation of the former President. George W. Bush may not have been the most well-received POTUS but he certainly was not the mush-brained frat boy that Rockwell delivered (no doubt by the influence of McKay). But that is the McKay touch that has made his films memorable.
Editing Gold: A silent triumph in Vice is the gracefully orchestrated cuts. The film weaves in and out of timelines and settings without losing the audience down the tunnel. It is the same technique as The Big Shortsince Hank Corwin was entrusted again by McKay. In a story like Vice where pieces of the puzzle only fit several years if not decades after they are viewed, it is essential to keep those pieces on the minds of the audience as they are being placed. Corwin has no issue with the task. There is also a poetic use of imagery cut into key conversations that impacted the world as we see it today. They are some of the most devastating parts of the film as they illustrate how these conversations were rapid and detrimental.
Vice gives us a story that is largely unknown and after all, you can ask is “how did that happen?” Adam McKay once again enlightens America.