Vice: The Dick Cheney Movie
Spoiler Alert: This movie is eerily similar to “The Big Short” but with members of the Bush administration replacing Wall Street bankers. It’s almost like the same guy directed the two films…. Oh wait, that did happen... Anyway, if you haven’t seen the film and haven’t been creepily stalking Dick Cheney over the course of the past 60 years (to the point where you know his life story like the back of your hand), stick to the “Too Long, Didn’t Read” score and synopsis, along with the “Oscar Watch” analysis.
TL;DR Score and Synopsis: 70/100 – A dark, condescending film with brilliant acting and writing.
To the Review!
Poster for the movie, released in 2018.
When people think of the words “comedy,” “charismatic,” “charming,” and “exciting” there is only one thing that pops into their mind: A movie about the life of former US Vice President Dick Cheney. Until this year, pretty much everyone I knew kept saying, “how has Hollywood NOT made a movie about this and how have they NOT cast Christian Bale to play this guy? It would be a match made in heaven.” Luckily, for Director Adam McKay, he cashed in on this HUGE niche market BIG TIME.
All sarcasm aside, the concept of trying to take the former Vice President and trying to make him actually funny was a bold, creative strategy. The Golden Globes considered this film to be a “comedy/musical,” though I would file this under, “very, very, very, very, incredibly, unabashedly dark comedy and definitely not a musical.” Sadly, I do not think that type of category/genre exists at the moment; otherwise we know which film would take home that award this year (well, “The Favourite” could easily compete in that category too, but I would rather not re-visit that film again. Once was enough for me).
“Vice” thrived in three important components: acting, writing and makeup. A major shout out goes to the team that did the character makeup. They managed to make the aging process of everyone seem incredibly organic and very convincing. Their work blew me away, and I honestly thought I was looking at members of the Bush administration go through their lives as opposed to actors.
Christian Bale was unrecognizable as the man in question. If nobody told me that the man who played Batman was the one with all of that weight put on, I probably would have never known. I would have been like, “wow, Dick Cheney actually agreed to do a movie that basically craps on his entire life? What made him think THAT was a good idea?” That’s how convincing he was as the character, even if I did not find him to be funny as the main character in a “very, very, very, very, incredibly, unabashedly dark comedy and definitely not a musical” film. Seriously, look at these photos and try to tell me they are the same person:
Aside from Bale’s stunning transformation and performance, both Amy Adams as his wife and Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld shined in this film. Neither came across as sympathetic (maybe Lynne a little bit, but the whole point of the movie was to take a dump on Dick Cheney and the people around him, so “sympathetic” was not really a word they shot for), but they certainly were believable, funny and very interesting to say the least. Of all the characters, Carrell as Rumsfeld made me laugh the most. His blunt, dry style of humor was amusing.
A few more elements I liked: the plot twist on the guy narrating the movie blew my mind. It came OUT OF NOWHERE. Major credit to the creativity behind that move they made. I will not spoil it, but wow that was a crazy twist.
Also, the last third of the movie is just pure shock value, so be prepared. They clearly wanted to make you feel uncomfortable about the impacts former VP Cheney’s decisions made on various peoples lives. I certainly did. But I will also add (so I do not sound like a giant flaming hypocrite) that the excessiveness at the end seemed to have a very clear-cut point to make.
For the most part, “Vice” nailed it on many elements. However, what I could not get over was the incredibly “in your face” style of the movie. “The Big Short” also possessed the same kind of vibe, but I overlooked it because I knew absolutely nothing about banking, so they needed to “baby” me on the details for me to truly comprehend what happened with the housing crisis. They also seemed to base more of it in fact, used more visually appealing cut scenes and came up with more creative lines that made me laugh frequently.
“Vice” relied WAY too much on simple narration and texts across the screen to get across some of the points they tried to make. It seemed more so like someone trying to preach to me as opposed to someone showing me what went down over his lifetime. They also seemed confused as to what direction they wanted to take his douche-baggery down. They jumped all over the place from a life development standpoint, making it hard to follow the vision they wanted to set for him other than the idea that “he was a piece of sh%$.” I wanted more nuance and more in-depth analysis.
They touched briefly on the nature of power, and what it does to people. But the writers didn’t flesh this idea out enough. Even when not in power, he seemed to operate in the exact same way, so they needed to explore that a little bit more and make a more outright conclusion about his behaviors. Certain parts of his life they seemed to cover adequately, but others left me baffled. I had too many questions that went unanswered.
“Vice” did a lot right and I do not regret watching it at all (unlike SOME films of which I will not name). However, it felt more like “The Big Short” with Bush administration members as opposed to its own unique film. If Director Adam McKay wants to wow me further, he needs to mix it up a little more for next time.
One last thing: DO NOT leave the theater right when the credits start to roll. There was a hilarious post credits scene that personified social media. It beautifully showcased Director Adam McKay’s awareness on how certain people will react to the film. If there’s one thing I admire in people, it is self-awareness. So, props to you Adam on possessing this great quality.
If the Oscars made awards for “Best Trailer” , “Vice” would have that locked up this year. Unfortunately for them, that award does not exist… Yet. After that teaser Annapurna Pictures put out, it looked like “Vice” would be a near shoe in for the “Best Picture” nomination. But right now, I am not 100% convinced. The film might’ve turned off enough members either on a tone or boredom front to lose out. I would give it a 60/40 chance of nomination for the coveted category. That said, “Vice” will strongly contend in the following categories:
Best Hairstyling/Make-up: Shut it down folks, “Vice” is an absolute shoe in to win this one. The transformations all of the characters made were absolutely majestic. They might as well give them the award right now, no need to wait until the big day to do so. I bet even the other people for the other movies know it too.
Best Actor – Christian Bale as Dick Cheney: He underwent an INSANE transformation for the part, much like Gary Oldman did for Winston Churchill last year. He was seriously unrecognizable, and had Cheney’s mannerisms down to a T. Best actor is a stacked category this year, but he will definitely be in the mix to win it all.
Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney: She portrayed, arguably, the most sympathetic character in the movie and showed very impressive range. She’s my personal pick for this award this year, and is a very talented actress.
Best Original Screenplay: Although I found some of the dialogue to be a little too preachy/condescending, I cannot deny the film possessed incredibly creative, witty and intriguing dialogue. No guarantees it will win, but it will be in serious consideration.