One thing you’ll notice very quickly about Vice is that it is not your usual biopic. Rather than take a straight, linear look at the life of Dick Cheney, Vice plays with the usual biopic tropes slightly. It mixes up the timeline, uses unique visuals to help tell a sometimes more complex political story and also keeps it’s tongue firmly in cheek when it needs too.
This is necessary as Vice is making some fairly bold claims. The film is laying the responsibility for a lot of major issues in America today and in it’s recent past, including the War on Terror and ISIS, firmly at the door of Dick Cheney. Whether these are reasonable claims or not is up for debate but the film does a very convincing job of ensuring you believe them, or at least understand how Cheney could be responsible. That is where the wry smile throughout the story comes into play, anything less than that and the film would be worryingly terrifying.
Not that Vice doesn’t know when to get serious. The moments centred around 9/11 are chilling at times and it is clear that Vice doesn’t believe George W. Bush was running any emergency operations that day. In fact, Vice does a lot to allude to how little George W. Bush was running the country and it becomes a fascinating look at America in the early 21st century, and how scary the thought of Dick Cheney as “President” really is.
It helps that the actors involved in the story do such a solid job. Christian Bale is transformed into Dick Cheney. He disappears into a role which requires a shaved head and a lot of weight to be added to his fairly wiry frame. Bale’s performance goes beyond just the look though and his mannerisms and way he holds himself often make the actor disappear and the real-life creation take his place.
Alongside him is Amy Adams as Cheney’s formidable wife Lynne Cheney. Adams has carved herself a solid position as a strong female character alongside the strong male lead. She has some great moments of her own and no doubt emulates the lesser known person very well.
The outside, dark-horse of the movie is Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld. Carell throws away the more likeable persona he is known for and plays an obnoxious, manipulative career politician who was responsible for a major part of Cheney’s rise to power. You can tell Carell is relishing the chance to play the character too and enjoying every moment.
There are many different pieces to the biopic and it becomes an important story that is well-worth being told. Director Adam McKay does not shy away from his clear political stance though and this could maybe under-cut the message slightly. A post-credit scene almost completely places McKay’s political views front and centre, which may just undermine the movie and it’s authenticity.
Overall, Vice is a very well-made, effective biopic which tells an important but slightly worrying story. It has some bold claims which McKay presents in a tongue-in-cheek fashion when necessary. The performances are great and match the material but the message could be undermined slightly by McKay’s clear political leanings.
Rating – 4
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