Fresh from his much-beloved debut of The Big Short, Adam McKay once again turns his sharp critique on contemporary America with Vice and this film will rock you to your core.
Vice is the story of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.
Director Adam McKay has a taste for the satirical and his talent is in capturing a subject and uplifting all of its edges to find the harshest, most unbelievable story at its core and then delivering them to his audience. We saw his satirical scalpel at work with his sharp-eyed critique of America’s financial system in The Big Short and now he seeks to examine the nation’s political machine at work and the evils that lay at its center. And what he delivers is unbelievable. From the beginning, McKay skirts the line between facts and narrative and his ability to use the satirical to his advantage makes this narrative all the more compelling. But as things ramp up and we begin to see the satire fade away, we instead find ourselves in a political horror movie that is far scarier than The Silence of the Lambs ever could be. Vice is satirical comedy at its most extreme and McKay pulls you left and right at every occasion.
Forming the focus of Vice is a unique character study of one Dick Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States, and a man who comes to be the ultimate political figure in a transformative performance from actor Christian Bale. With Bale, we see a complete character arc in play here in Vice, with Cheney beginning as nothing more than a ne’er-do-well, shit-kicking dirtbag, who then suddenly finds himself charged with purpose and on the course to better himself. But while you think you’ll see the triumphant story of a political hero in play, what we actually get is a character whose unrelenting hunger, both physically and metaphorically, unleashes in him a desire for absolute power that can only be fed by greed and wickedness and results in a thoroughly dangerous and completely reprehensible life.
In short, it’s an utterly miraculous performance by Christian Bale of a character who is presented as the ultimate villain. Just when you think that Cheney cannot possibly fall further into the depths of degradation to obtain his ultimate goal, well he proves you wrong. If Richard the Third and Darth Vader could find an apprentice to teach their dark arts to then Cheney would be their guy, and in the end, would completely outdo both of their evil. And you won’t believe what is going on before your eyes. The brilliance of such a performance comes back to Bale and his commitment to the character because he gives a truly shocking performance here.
They say that behind every great man there’s an even greater woman, and for Dick Cheney in Vice this absolutely rings true thanks to Amy Adams as his wife Lynne. With a determination and ruthlessness that exceeds that of her husband, Lynne is the perfect woman for Dick and she is the ultimate architect of her husband’s rise to power. It is she who gives him the ultimatum to change his life and it is she that encourages his pursuit of the Republican Dream and it is she that ultimately paves the way for his own inner monster to come out.
Adams is sharp and focused in the role and extremely quick on her feet and her every step seems to be led by her desire to elevate her family to the highest tier of American life. Of the two of them Lynne is painted in my mind as the far more patriotic of the Cheney’s and while her ambitions have the air of nobility, her husband’s come to represent an interior desire to realise his own ambitions even above the good of America. Adams is perfectly cast in the role and her chemistry and relationship with Bale really shine through in her performance.
Finally, Sam Rockwell lends his talents to that of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, and his performance leads to a hysterical turn of events. Rockwell’s Bush is a completely Cowboy character, a wisecracking good’ol boy who has walked into the family business but isn’t aware that he’s just the puppet. McKay’s focus on Bush is ultimately a vicious one, but thanks to Rockwell’s performance we can’t help but want to see him at every turn. In terms of performance, Rockwell is spot on with his characterization of the former President and he channels an innate charisma and cool that completely wins you over.
While Vice is satire in action, it’s also a scathing presentation that vividly paints the Republican party in every shade of red imaginable. While you could call it a political horror movie, its level of satire and comedy continually throws you about as an audience member and you truly begin to wonder whether you can believe what is unfolding before you. It’s simply that absurd. Seeking to outdo himself at every turn, Cheney and his minions continue to sink to new lows no matter the cost, and just when you think he’ll find his comeuppance he sails through and wins out, profiting in the fallout. Vice might be shocking, but it’s shockingly good and anyone who has the chance to see it will be treated to a masterwork in both direction and performance.
If you’re seeking an exceptional cinematic experience then Vice is the film to give it to you. Loaded with its own sharp humour and an incredible performance from its cast Vice is a film that really gets under your skin and captures a unique snapshot of history that was ultimately the doing of one man.
Source: EOne Films