Vice - 2018
Director(s): Adam McKay
Writer(s): Adam McKay
Cinematography by: Greig Fraser
Editor(s): Hank Corwin
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemons and Tyler Perry
Adam McKay before 2015's The Big Short, was best known for his comedic work with Will Ferrell, Anchorman and Step Brothers among them, so this satire look at complex real-life events came out of nowhere, for me. McKay managed to dilute a complicated subject matter, the financial crisis, and made it engaging and entertaining. So, once it was announced that he would be tackling the life of Dick Cheney, and Christian Bale was tackling the lead role, colored me interested. Let's talk about it.
The story starts in 1963, a young Cheney (Bale) after a long night of drinking is given an ultimatum by his wife Lynne (Adams). From there Dick's goal in life is clear, he will become the successful man his wife deserves. The story tracks him from his 1969 internship at the White House under Rumsfeld (Carell) all the way to his Vice Presidency alongside George W. Bush (Rockwell), showcasing all the power moves he made behind the scenes that would change the political landscape for years to come. McKay once again utilized a narrator (Plemons) to help the audience understand most of the complex ideas explored throughout the runtime. However, this time around instead of asking celebrities to explain a decision or idea, he spliced them within the story, my favorite being the restaurant scene in where Alfred Molina gives them the choices of war and torture. While I did enjoy the movie and found it funny, the tone of the film felt more heavy-handed than The Big Short and could be that there was no way around it, but I wished it was a bit subtler than it was.
Quick note: the cinematography is a bit jarring at times at times, but the use of imagery, especially the one of fishing, tied in with the themes of the film perfectly.
Even if you do not like the subject matter or the tone McKay chose to convey his message, you cannot deny the incredible work from Christian Bale and Amy Adams. Bale's commitment to represent his characters physical traits set him apart from his peers, for better or worst (I'm worried Bale, call me). His transformation into Cheney is awe-inducing as he could've easily been his body double for the White House during emergencies. Bale also adopts Cheney's cadence, voice, and mannerisms delivering one of the best performances in a jammed pack 2018. Bale is not the only one to become his character, as Adams stood toe to toe with him as the strong-willed Lynne Cheney that was with Dick every step of the way. She has never delivered anything but greatness whenever she is given a meaty role, and this as meaty as they come (sounds weird). While she has a couple of great monologues, her best performance came when she just had to react or stare at Bale. The rest of the cast is solid. Steve Carell is funny, but at times it does feel like he is in a sketch, Sam Rockwell killed it as George W. Bush as he managed to convey the Bush trademark, well, dumbness, yet he never went into Saturday Night Live territory.
Vice is a funny, engaging look at one of the most mysterious leaders our country has ever had, and ever will have. While I say that it is funny, many of the themes and moments showcased will leave a sour taste in your mouth, as it deals with war, torture and unabashed greed and power hunger in the face of them. With an incredible cast, Bales' performance as this quiet manipulator is the crown jewel of this film. McKay is one of the more versatile writer-directors working today, and I'm intrigued as to where he will go next. Bale is why I love movies.
Vice is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
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