- The art of the transformation, something that Christian Bale has been practicing for some time now, and here with Vice, we see him thicken and gray before our eyes, as we span decades through the life of Dick Cheney. Bale burrows himself into the personality of an astute operator endowed with whatever the opposite of charisma might be. His Cheney lacks any trace of charm, humor or warmth, except sometimes in the company of his family. It’s Dick’s devotion to his wife and their two daughters that brings the most genuine quality to him and humanizes him the most. But what motivates him above all is the study and acquisition of power, a vocation in which he has his wife Lynne’s fierce support. It’s Amy Adam’s, Lynne Cheney, that subverts a potentially marginal, helpmeet role. As it’s through Adam McKay’s portrait of their marriage as a Macbeth-like conception of political morality. As he suggests that behind every bad man, there is a woman who is even worse and it’s through that, which establishes Lynne as the film’s covert protagonist. Sam Rockwell’s turn as George W. Bush is quite strong as well, as he brings more than an impression, but instead captures the vapidity and affableness of “W”. Steve Carell’s turn as Donald Rumsfeld is quite frightening, as he is the guide to Cheney, showing him the ropes of the disgusting world behind the curtain in Washington, from giving him advice to answering questions, all with a demented vigor. Dick goes as far at one point asking Rumsfeld, “What do we believe in?”, in which Rumsfeld nearly falls over laughing. It’s a scene that carries both the films great use of dark absurdist comedy and marks a vital encompassing moment for the film as a whole.
- Adam McKay’s direction is pretty strong here, as he continues to bring his unique style to a scathing takedown. Much like his previous film The Big Short, from which he brought a rollicking explication of the financial crisis of 2008, this film transforms loud pop-cultural toys into tools of polemic and explanation. The scenes crackle with playful glee and the dry business of statecraft attains the velocity of farce. Vice though is a two hour evisceration of America’s political system, with heavy Machiavellian undertones, it’s a portrait of soullessness, that could only be sidetracked with intervals of a failing heart.
- Adam McKay’s screenplay is quite great, as it brings a story of a rising, falling roller-coaster through four decades of American history, that’s a hectic blend of psychohistory, domestic drama and absurdist satirical comedy bound together through McKay’s ingenuity and indignation. While The Big Short used its interplay of personalities to illuminate the workings of a complex system, Vice instead moves in the opposite direction, showing the disparate pageantry of our politics, a system that allowed Cheney to metastasize from an observant power-hungry intern into a monstrous politician. McKay continues the fourth wall breaks with Vice and they’ve only improved. Most often from an affable everyman narrator (played by a great, Jesse Plemons) whose connection to our main character turns to be a work of pure genius from McKay. Through it all though Vice offers more than rage-bait for democrat moviegoers, who already have plenty to be upset about. Revulsion and admiration lie very close together, just as much so as the red and white stripes do on the American flag. And this film takes a lively look at its real-life monster, showing him sympathetically at times, but it’s the films crescendo with a sequence of a transplant of a dying organ, concluding with a image of an cold and black heart, that’s undoubtedly on the nose, yet so gloriously works.
- The editing from Hank Corwin is phenomenal. Corwin’s snappy rhythm brings a lot to the films unique structure and pace, along with the many ingenious cut aways to the likes of game boards and fly-fishing rods.
- The last 15 minutes of the film are a little rushed.