Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell
Director: Adam McKay
Running Time: 132 mins
Vice is an American film about the political career of Dick Cheney, who rose through the ranks of Republican governments through the years, up to his tenure as Vice President to George W. Bush, when he ammassed immense political power never before seen in the US government.
There are few figures in 21st Century politics with such significant historical influence and still widespread controversy, however Dick Cheney is certainly one to fit that bill. In Vice, the politican’s career is detailed as he manoeuvres his way through the ranks of the Republican Party over the course of three decades, culminating in his appointment as Vice President.
As a political biopic, Vice is a fascinating watch, and although the movie’s presentation of Cheney is something that’s for discussion elsewhere, it details his career and development in riveting detail, despite Cheney’s secrecy and cunning that leaves so many major moments of his career still in the dark.
On top of that, the film works as a lighter, comedic take on the typical biopic, with director Adam McKay on board following his breakout awards season success with The Big Short, and that irreverent and ambitious sense of humour is carried over, giving the movie a great energy throughout that makes it just as entertaining as it is historicall interesting, albeit occasionally getting in the way of the film’s more pressing issues.
In fact, as much as I liked Vice, its biggest problem is unfortunately its most unique and ambitious element: the comedy. Above all, the film’s first act and a half is where it really struggles to balance its role as a comedy and serious political biopic, featuring funny fourth wall-breaking comedy that pushes the boundaries of the biopic genre, yet doesn’t quite fit with the topic at hand.
In comparison to The Big Short, which focused on the farce and chaos of the financial crisis, as well as the hilariously incomprehensible nature of big money to the average layman, Vice’s subject matter doesn’t quite fit with McKay’s irreverent sense of humour, and although it’s good to see the director still pushing boundaries and doing something different with a political biopic, the more serious, Machiavellian nature of Cheney’s career doesn’t gel as well with that comedy, which is something that makes the film feel a little all over the place over the course of its first act.
With that said, however, once we get up to the year 2000, things start to settle down a bit, and the movie really gets into its stride as a more standard, yet thoroughly engrossing biopic. I’m glad that the film doesn’t just deal with the Bush era after 2000, and the development of Cheney’s career since the late 60s is something that I was totally unaware of, however the real meat of the movie comes in the first term of the Bush presidency, and it does a great job at telling what went on at the highest seat of power in the world.
Again, while the film’s presentation of Cheney is overwhelmingly negative, and there’s every chance that there’s a bit of artistic license taken when portraying this hyper-secret government meetings, the key themes of Cheney’s role in the War on Terror, developing energy and more that effectively superceded President Bush’s power are all there, and that’s what really makes for an engrossing watch.
Christian Bale’s performance as Cheney is very strong throughout, cementing him in your eyes as a driven, intelligent and calculating politician, strengthening the drama and intrigue when it comes to his ever-growing political power at the top of government, and as the film’s detailing of the Bush presidency goes on, the intensity of Bale’s performance develops too, which I found absolutely fascinating to watch.
Alongside, Amy Adams is a real stand-out as Lynne Cheney, with a regularly scene-stealing performance that’s both charismatic and convincing, while further supporting players like Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell and a whole host of others bring great energy to the world of political gamesmanship, linking up with the film’s irreverent attitude and genre-breaking style to provide a thoroughly entertaining watch, as well as one that further deepens your intrigue of the true history.
Overall, I liked Vice a lot. It’s a fascinating biopic that really hits its stride in its key period of history, with an intriguing portrait of Dick Cheney’s life and immense role in shaping the modern world, furthered by strong performances across the board and typically charismatic and energetic directing from Adam McKay that makes for an entertaining watch, albeit one that unfortunately feels a little muddled a lot of the time, and that’s why I’m giving Vice a 7.6.