By Mark Saldana
Rating 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
From writer/director Adam McKay, the filmmaker made the razor sharp satire, The Big Short, comes another biting and witty film that pulls no punches. With Vice, McKay takes on the political career of Dick Cheney and how he literally became the most powerful Vice President of the United States. Chameleon actor Christian Bale, once again immerses himself into the role, body and soul, and delivers a truly fascinating and somewhat frightening take on the enigmatic politician. Vice may not exactly be one of the best movies of the year, but it is definitely an imaginative, entertaining and disturbing satire.
Vice intimately follows the life and career of Dick Cheney. Beginning with his humble beginnings as a drunken “ne’er do well,” Cheney has to get his life in order and on track if he wishes to save his marriage to his sweetheart Lynne (Amy Adams). This motivates Cheney to finish college and pursue a career in politics. While working as an assistant to Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), during Gerald Ford’s administration, he begins to learn the inner workings of the White House. What he learns during this tenure, and the connections he makes come in handy years later when George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) asks Dick to be his Vice President and successfully wins the election.
Now I know my dull synopsis doesn’t do the movie any justice, but I simply don’t want to give too much away. McKay’s highly creative presentation of this story makes Cheney’s ambitious political maneuverings and power plays rather fascinating, sometimes hilarious, and almost always unnerving. McKay’s writing is nearly impeccable, as are his directorial choices. Though Cheney and his family are portrayed and developed as real people, some of the other characters come across as broad caricatures–particularly George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.
And it probably isn’t entirely the faults of Sam Rockwell and Steve Carrell, they probably performed according to McKay’s script and direction. They are both entertaining to watch, but hard to take as realistic characters at times. As Cheney’s wife Lynne, Amy Adams offers a stern, but very supportive take. She is a caring wife and mother, but one who is firm in her conservative beliefs. She offers her husband guidance and a sesse of purpose which fuels his ambitions. It is another stellar turn for the talented actress.
As Dick Cheney, Christian Bale gives a phenomenal performance that is subtle, understated, and sometimes scary. He portrays Cheney as mostly quiet, soft-spoken, but politically savvy and power hungry. The film has features great performances by Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Shea Wigham, Lisa Gay Hamilton, and Alfred Molina. Jesse Plemmons offers much sardonic wit as the narrator of the story who appears onscreen occasionally and whose identity isn’t revealed until towards the end of the film. Plemmons utilizes his comic timing and natural charisma well. It is definitely a performance which deserves recognition.
So, despite some of the silly moments in the film, McKay delivers another razor-sharp satire, presented in some bold and exciting ways. It is a movie I must highly recommend. McKay’s writing and direction, along with the acting of Plemmons, Bale, and Adams all make it worth the price of admission.