by Luke McGoldrick
Adam Mckay’s Vice follows the rise of former US vice president Dick Cheney from a no name politician to his eventual position as the Emperor Palpatine (or ‘Darth Vader,’ as he was actually nicknamed) of American politics. It’s a fascinating look at the American political system and how, for decades, politicians have played it like a ruthless game of Monopoly. Vice is similar to Mckay’s The Big Short (2014) in style and tone, but it does a few things differently. For instance, it’s far more satirical, with blatant parodies of the improper and despicable decision-making process behind the controversial actions of the American government. These scenes are ridiculous, hilarious and very on the nose – but that’s satire for you.
The use of archived footage edited together to paint a picture of American society is fantastic. We see how the media reacted to tragic events and the distractions it created to ignore them. Mckay likes to emphasize/highlight characters or events in the story with visual metaphors: a scene of Cheney in negotiation mode is intercut with a clip of a lion chasing a zebra. When Cheney strikes the deal, the lion gets the zebra. This kind of blatant metaphor might annoy some viewers but it’s more of a little joke than a serious point.
Of course, one of the main attractions of this film is Christian Bale who, in typical Bale style, underwent a physical transformation to play Dick Cheney. His posture, facial expression – that cold dead stare behind his glasses – makes him practically unrecognizable. After a while, Bale disappears and it’s just Cheney left. Amy Adams is equally amazing as the vice president’s wife, the Lady Macbeth of this tale of betrayal and power obsessed politicians. Respectfully, this film makes Dick Cheney a more complex person than you would think, in an interesting character study. There are some very subtle hints that maybe, just maybe, there’s a decent human being beneath the cold exterior of a man who once shot someone in a ‘hunting accident’ and made him publicly apologise for it. Vice is a unique look at a recent part of history that shows an America not so different from today’s. It’s definitely worth the watch.