While accepting his Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Christian Bale thanked Satan for giving him inspiration on how to portray his role. But Bale’s portrayal of Dick Cheney, America’s 46th Vice President, would make even Satan blush. Director Adam McKay pulls no punches in “Vice.” The film is a seething condemnation not only of Cheney, but of the entire modern Republican Party. McKay argues that essentially everything wrong with America today can be traced back to his biopic’s central character.
Cheney begins his journey as an unmotivated Yale drop out in Wyoming. His apparent willingness to waste away as a manual laborer is challenged when his upper class girlfriend Lynne (Amy Adams) threatens to leave him. Determined to prove himself to her, Cheney pursues an internship as a Congressional aide in Washington, D.C. As he learns the ropes and climbs the rungs, we witness the birth of a political monster.
Cheney’s path to power is portrayed as borderline sociopathic. At one point a young Cheney asks his boss and mentor Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) “What do we believe in?” Rumsfeld reacts as if he’s just been asked the most ridiculous question he’s ever heard. Through tears of laughter, Rumsfeld shuts the door in Cheney’s face, and he has his answer: they believe in nothing. McKay is brutal in his speculation about Cheney’s private life, and who can blame him? According to a piece called “Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney” (The Atlantic), verifiable sources accuse Cheney of tampering with classified intelligence to escalate the (lucrative) war in Iraq, instituting programs that allowed for torture and imprisonment without trial, profiting from Middle Eastern oil deposits through his private business, Halliburton and using the judicial branch of government to advance the power of the executive branch. The billing of this film as a dramatic comedy may be surprising, considering the subject matter, but McKay somehow manages it.
Because of its humorous approach to a very depressing and frankly disturbing series of events surrounding a prominent member of the Republican Party, the film often comes across as liberally biased and preachy. A post credit scene attempts to address this bias, but only ends up pouring fuel on the flames (a current White House occupant is referred to as an “orange Cheeto”). “Vice” has some important things to say about the state of the Republican Party, but a scathing, liberally biased comedy will have a hard time reaching audiences who are quick to play the “fake news” card. Don’t take your conservative friends to see this movie in hopes that they will weep and repent.
The star-studded cast, beautiful cinematography and irreverent humor of “Vice”keeps its audience enthralled as Cheney’s web of deceit and corruption is unraveled before their eyes. Stellar acting from Bale and Adams overcomes the film’s sometimes tediously slow pace. Like McKay’s last film, “The Big Short,” “Vice” seeks to expose injustices done to the world by powerful figures in an entertaining, easily digestible way. McKay always seems to succeed in entertaining, but by tackling such recently devastating and divisive topics in humorous ways, one may be left wondering if they should laugh along or fall into a deep, hopeless depression at the thought of the United States’ current political climate. Maybe that was McKay’s intent. If you’re interested, head to AMC Lexington Park 6 or R/C Lexington Exchange Movies 12 to catch this film.