Those looking for vicarious thrills won’t find what they’re looking for in Vice the latest real life US politics film that follows hot on the heels of The Front Runner. This time it’s the turn of the Republicans and Vice is far lighter in tone which makes the actions taken by deliberately low profile politician all the more frightening.
Vice is Vice President Dick Cheney award winningly played by Christian Bale who is almost unrecognizable having taken the Robert de Niro/Raging Bull route of troughing down on food like Gemma Collins at an all you can eat buffet . Arguably this starts as a bit of a motivation movie with Cheney as a youth working on telegraph poles fixing cables by day and getting drunk at night and getting in scrapes with the law. It’s only after being read the riot act by his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) that he really REALLY gets his act together joining a programme training people to work in the US Senate where he finds Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carrell) an experienced and utterly ruthless in his drive laughing maniacally like a real life Dick Dastardly when Cheney asks, ‘What do we stand for?’
Directed by Adam McKay who made the Oscar nominated The Big Short he takes the same template and applies it here with a narrator who occasionally pops up but whose purpose only becomes clear later in the film. It’s the playing with film structure that has McKay running the credits halfway through the film having claimed that Cheney retired to participate in Iron Man contests before the film rewinds and continues his upward ascent. Driven by his wife Cheney comes across as borderline psychotic and there’s really only one moment of humanity when one of his daughters comes out as gay and from thereon he knows that to keep the Press away from her he can never run for President. Fortunately him for him he becomes president in all but name when George Bush Jr, played with gleeful stupidity by Sam Rockwell, asks him to run as his Vice President. Like the rest of the world Cheney saw Bush as a complete moron and he quickly realizes that as vice President he will be a puppet master and the real power behind the throne knowing that Bush will have to take the flack for the decisions made because as his wife points out that vice President is a non role.
But here Cheney wields his anonymous power like a silent assassin ruthlessly assembling those who can get him what he wants to proceed so every liberal law maker will reel in horror when they see him push through legislation riding a wave of public outrage after 9/11. So water boarding is authorized hidden behind the claim that America does not torture, warrantless surveillance is bulldozed through all in the name of the War on Terror and all endorsed by a increasingly right wing press led by a rabid Fox News network
This is hugely entertaining and comically underplay by Bale especially when one of his frequent heart complaints comes on and he casually announces he needs to get to the hospital. It’s great performance expertly capturing every mannerism and nuance. and it makes Vice funny, frightening and fantastic.
Here’s the trailer for Vice……