Review: Vice [Spoiler Free]

Following 2015’s The Big Short, the trio of writer / director, Adam McKay and actors Christian Bale & Steve Carell join forces for the biographical political drama, Vice. The film details the rise to power of former U.S Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Story

Based on the biography of Dick Cheney, as well as interviews with known associates, Vice tells the life story of Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale). The film documents the period of him being kicked out of Yale University to the end of George W. Bush’s administration, for which he served as Vice President. The viewer is guided through his life story by the narrator, Kurt (Jesse Plemons), we later discover how these two individuals are connected.

The supporting cast includes Amy Adams (Arrival, Justice League) as Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney; Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy, Welcome to Marwen) as Donald Rumsfeld; Tyler Perry (Nobody’s Fool) as Colin Powell; and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) as President George W Bush.

Hitting The Mark

Christian Bale & Amy Adams (Vice)

Over the years, Christian Bale has proven himself to be a master at immersing himself in the characters he plays, fortunately, this remains true with his depiction of Dick Cheney. From the stoic demeanour and gravelly voice, Christian Bale’s performance is on par with previous performances in American Hustle & The Fighter.

Lynne Cheney is very much the backbone of the Cheney family. Her motivations are often a lot clearer than Dick Cheney’s, which allows Amy Adams to play her role with greater depth. Her need for a sense of security in her relationship, based on her parent’s abusive relationship and her wishes to realise her own ambitions, at a time women couldn’t so easily do, gives her character a sense of drive. One that is felt constantly throughout the film.

Sam Rockwell’s depiction of George W Bush largely stays true to the former president and is as equally believable as Christian Bale’s Cheney. One of the stronger points of Vice is exploring the relationship between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. George W. Bush once described his relationship with Dick Cheney as “cordial” and that’s largely how their relationship is shown on screen.

Most of the film revolves around three periods, which has defined modern-day Conservative politics in the U.S: The power-vacuum formed after the resignation of President Nixon because of the Watergate Scandal, the rise of the Bush family in the Republican Party & 9/11.

The film also makes references to how the wider landscape of how Conservative politics developed: from Roger Ailes’ initial wish to form a Conservative Party News Channel, which then became Fox News; to billionaires, the Koch brothers and their influence on the party.

Thought Process

Despite being accurate on key events, a downfall of the film is understanding Dick Cheney’s motivation in the first place. Early on in the film he is described as a “so-so student” and having been expelled from Yale and battling drinking, his decision to study and enter into politics, much less the long ascent to becoming the United States’ most powerful Vice President ever, isn’t given the on-screen time that it should have.

Is Dick Cheney motivated by hatred? fear? Or atriotism? Without this explored it can make light of the ruthlessness in which the real Dick Cheney moulded the Republican Party over the past decades. And whilst the director, Adam McKay, does present some facts and figures, it does little to show the motivating factors in pursuing the “War on Terror” as viciously as Dick Cheney did.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of The Big Short, you’ll certainly enjoy this. The supporting cast is great and Christian Bale is believable in his depiction of Dick Cheney. Even though it doesn’t quite reach the captivating heights of a film like Wolf of Wall Street in describing a “rise to power” story, it’s an intriguing look at how the political landscape of Republican politics has changed over the last four decades.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Posted by
Presh Williams

A lover of all types of films: from micro-budget indies to major studio films. It's the story that counts. Co-Founder of Big Picture Film Club and Cinnect.