“Who was that on the phone?” Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) asks husband Dick (Christian Bale). “Someone from George W. Bush’s campaign,” he says. Lynne asks, “What did they want?” “To talk to me,” Dick says, “about being his running mate.” “Vice President is a nothing job,” says Lynne, “You’ve said so yourself.” So begins, after 45 minutes and an odd false ending, act two of Adam McKay’s “Vice,” in which an unflattering account of Dick Cheney’s public life becomes a hard-to-believe conspiratorial theory about recent political events.
How did Cheney, boozy Yale drop-out, become Halliburton CEO and US Vice President? What motivated his ambition? Does his story help us under- stand present-day politics? Director/writer McKay says yes. I’m not convinced.
Christian Bale, in a remarkable performance, embodies Dick Cheney through five decades of public and domestic life. Deliberate and thoughtful speech, slow movement, plus multiple hours in the make-up chair, contribute to his award-worthy accomplishment. (Greg Cannom and Chris Gallaher created Bale’s make-up.) Amy Adams, as Lynne Cheney, is fiercely ambitious for her husband, insisting he succeed if he loves his wife and daughters (as he does). Scene-stealer Steve Carell is antic Donald Rumsfeld, launching Cheney on his Washington-insider career. Sam Rockwell is George W. Bush, clownishly portrayed. “Hot damn!” he says, and “No problemo!” Alison Pill and Lily Rabe are Cheney daughters, Mary and Liz.
Others in the large cast include — as Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and Henry Kissinger — Tyler Perry, LisaGay Hamilton and Kirk Bovill. Justin Kirk is Scooter Libby and Eddie Marsan plays Paul Wolfowitz. Jesse Plemons is (mostly) off-screen narrator Kurt, who speaks directly to us, explaining what is happening and (often) how we should feel about it.
“Vice” is director/writer Adam McKay’s viciously liberal depiction of how Dick Cheney used his Washington connections to become the Vice President who, as the film’s tagline tells us, “changed the course of history.” Cheney, says McKay, had a significant part in everything wrong since 9/11 — Iraq War, Guantanamo, conservative media, Islamic State, and the theory that Presidential actions are always legal. Watching “Vice,” however, is also a lesson in moviemaking. As he did in “The Big Short” (2015), McKay makes smart use of flashbacks, flash-forwards, quick-cut montages, visual metaphors, split-screens, and direct-to-camera explanations. Still, I didn’t get persuasive answers to the big questions: “Did Cheney really do all that and, if so, why?”
Rated R for language and violent images, “Vice” runs 132 minutes.
“Vice” — Dick Cheney biopic —
With a lefty point of view;
Not for me; how about you?