Vice opens on Sept 11th, 2001, as Dick Cheney (Christian Bale, above) is rushed into the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre, so he’s kept out of harm’s way, and then goes back to the start, in 1963, when he got into Yale and went on to meet his wife-to-be, Lynne (Amy Adams), and as the narration tells us, Dick Cheney saw something no-one else did – an opportunity, and he certainly took his chances when it came to making money.
In fact, about that narration, early on, it’s drowned out by the score in places, but that soon settles down, so don’t panic that it’ll last.
From there, we skip through the Vietnam War, then Watergate, all the while seeing the barriers he faced in attempting to become President, but it takes around 40 minutes before we get to the ’80s, and the film calms down a bit through the decade-trotting, at which point it becomes more accessible.
However, it’s when events move on towards 2000/2001, giving us the meat of the film where Cheney became the Vice President to George W Bush (Sam Rockwell), although it does take almost an hour before it gets to that point.
It’s great to see the way Bale changes over the years, with his receeding hairline, and as well as gaining weight, he actually shaved his head for the role, but then he regularly doubles-down on his method acting, such as when he starved himself for The Machinist, or when he learned how to fly for the Batman films.
There’s also great support with Sam Rockwell as Bush, and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, looking a lot more like him in his later years as that’s how we know him now, and certainly how I’m most familiar with the man. Weeds‘ Justin Kirk is great as the scheming Scooter Libby, special advisor to the Bush Jr, and although she doesn’t have a speaking role, LisaGay Hamilton looks spot-on as Condoleezza Rice.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the lead character. Cheney is primarily a businessman, so questions would be raised when they blow up Iraq and then the construction companies sent in to rebuild have very strong connections with him, although, along with Richard Nixon, he also felt that whatever the President does at any time is completely and utterly legal, and that that power extends to him also.
A few random observations: There’s Naomi Watts as an uncredited news anchor, plus an amusing trick moment when the film feels like it’s ‘finishing’ at 48 minutes into the proceedings. I also liked the segment where it was declared that instead of saying the “scary” phrase “global warming”, they should instead say “climate change”, and as any right-thinking individual knows, man-made global warming is complete bollocks and it shows when we’re lectured by supposed world leaders who travel to COP Conferences on an annual basis, amongst a massive 300,000 people including all the journalists – all flying to one location, to tell us that mankind flying is a BAD THING. Oh, and note that they get two weeks to come to a decision about what to do in order to allegedly resolve the issue, and they can’t even manage it in that time, so they just HAVE to stay on an extra two days (at even more expense to the taxpayer) to cobble some rubbish together and then one of them dances on a desk like a complete dick (NOT Cheney).
In addition, the main theatrical widescreen aspect ratio for this film is 2.39:1, although there are a number of inserts showing either archive footage, new footage made to look like archive, or a mixture of the two, such as when Bale’s Cheney is pictured in a scene alongside the real George W Bush at the time.
Overall, Vice is interesting and certainly worth a watch, but it certainly isn’t great. It’s those opening 40 minutes which just drag for me, and are the main problem. Much better is writer/director Adam McKay‘s The Big Short, which also starred Bale and Carell, and while Brad Pitt was in that film, he’s here solely in a producer role.
And how much of it is fully the truth? The opening declaration tells us: “The following is a true story. Or as true as it can be, given that Dick Cheney is known as one of the most secretive leaders in history.
…But we did our fucking best.”
Running time: 132 minutes
Release date: January 25th 2019
Studio: Entertainment One UK Ltd
Format: 2.39:1 (/i Scope anamorphic, Spherical (16 mm footage), Super 16, Super 35, Super 8, Todd-AO 35 anamorphic)
Director: Adam McKay
Producers: Megan Ellison, Will Ferrell, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay, Kevin J Messick, Brad Pitt
Screenplay: Adam McKay
Music: Nicholas Britell
Dick Cheney: Christian Bale
Lynne Cheney: Amy Adams
Donald Rumsfeld: Steve Carell
George W. Bush: Sam Rockwell
Mary Cheney: Alison Pill
Paul Wolfowitz: Eddie Marsan
Scooter Libby: Justin Kirk
Condoleezza Rice: LisaGay Hamilton
Kurt: Jesse Plemons
Gerald Ford: Bill Camp
David Addington: Don McManus
Liz Cheney: Lily Rabe
Wayne Vincent: Shea Whigham
George Tenet: Stephen Adly Guirgis
Colin Powell: Tyler Perry
Antonin Scalia: Matthew Jacobs
17 Year Old Dick Cheney: Alexander MacNicoll
17 Year Old Lynne Vincent: Cailee Spaeny
George Bush Sr: John Hillner
Dennis Hastert: William Goldman
Grover Norquist: Tony Forsmark
Frank Luntz: Adam Bartley
John Yoo: Paul Yoo
Karl Rove: Joseph Beck
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi: Tony Graham
Osama Bin Laden: Alex Kingi
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.