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Vice (dir. McKay)

Image: Christian Bale, Sam Rockwell, Amy Adams in Vice © Source [IMDB]

★★★☆☆

A tongue in cheek, serious accusation and account on the career of Dick Cheney. A once Washington insider who became Vice President and at one time the most powerful man in the world. But with little information on the man and his career, McKay takes matters into his own hands to shape a portrait of the former Vice President.

Director: Adam McKay. Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell [15]

If my introduction sounded a little contradictory, it’s because I’m attempting to convey the contradictions in the direction of this film. McKay opens with narration telling the audience about themselves, about us not concerned with politics and too busy to really investigate. He blames this for the reason we sat by while the man Bale implied Satan was his inspiration to perform, rose to power. The film certainly implies a demonic presence to the man who is Dick Cheney. So you’d think such contempt for a former Vice President would present the man and his deeds with deep scrutiny and without remorse. Well, we get a flavour of that but not a full main course.

Instead, McKay has mashed up the genre of this piece, to some interesting degrees and he must be credited for taking a new and interesting approach to a biopic. It’s an approach that does garner lots of laughs and humour filled moments. And definitely gives McKay fun when playing around with the story, to which is outlined early on as being not completely accurate as very little is known about Dick Cheney and the true extent of his control in the White House. But what this does from the moment that fact is outlined is undercut the whole film. McKay fabricates events in order to implicate Cheney in certain degrees of evil and while most of the time this is done in a fun manner. It detracts from the more serious moments, such as Cheney’s involvement in creating the start of the Iraq War and the consequences of that. It slides back and forth two different tones and makes the film feel uneven as though it is just dipping its toes into multiple genres and factual information. It just doesn’t play well, especially when by using this way of addressing the topic in the film itself. McKay insults the audience by telling them they are dumb and things need to be presented like this or they won’t pay attention.

Thankfully it’s not all insult and injury. McKay does do his best to remain unbiased throughout the narrative and straightforwardly implies that Cheney just lost his heart to power, metaphorically of course – although somewhat literally. He also wants Cheney played with sincerity. Of course, he could have just got some sort of look-alike and played it up as a feature-length SNL skit. Instead, he casts a well versed and well-known method actor, Christian Bale. Who dives deep into the role even gaining some 60 pounds to pull off Cheney’s physique. Bale does do a superb job playing Cheney, capturing mannerisms and especially the way he forms and speaks his sentences. But while the performance is brilliant, due to McKay’s tongue in cheek, half serious, half ‘the audience needs dumb anecdotes or they won’t listen’ attitude. Bale is never given ample opportunity to really spread his wings in the role, we the audience can never stew with it and appreciate the nuance because it’s tucked away behind flashy edits and comedic throwaways.

So while the movie is fun, memorable, humorous, has a clear narrative and shows how interesting a director McKay can be. Sadly it does not have enough meat on the bone. Vice failed in its direction and tone, never providing the audience with ample opportunity to understand the gravity of the topic fully. Never giving us meaty scenes and unfortunately what most people will want out of a biopic. Especially of a man who is often cited as one of the most powerful world leaders at his time and more recently akin to Satan.

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