Simple Review: Bale to the Chief, or The Vice is Right
There are some movies that are crowd pleasers that bring us all together to share a heartwarming story. Well, Vice is not that movie and writer/director Adam McKay doesn’t seem too interested in making one feel good about the subject matter. I have to admit as a frequent moviegoer it was nice to watch a movie that challenges you and makes you uncomfortable from time to time. Vice deals with periods in American history that lend themselves to controversial views as well as not painting the people in them as heroes to the country. It would be simple to show this time and these people in one ugly light but, to his credit, Adam McKay is able to bring more to the table than just bashing politicians. Does Vice win in a landslide, or does it have to give an awkward concession speech that no one will ever remember? The only way to find out is to meet me in the parking garage of this review where Deep Throat will give us the dirty details we want to hear. ( That is a historical reference and it sounds so dirty!! See I am smart and naughty as well)
Vice tells the true story, as true as it can be, of the rise to power of former Vice President Dick Cheney and the effect he had on American political policy. Before we get to the details, and in my ever diligent quest to be honest with you, I must warn any political conservatives or fans of the Bush/Cheney time in the White House that you will most likely not enjoy this movie. McKay does not paint the people involved as one-dimensional monsters, but it is obvious what his political ideology is and he doesn’t handle this movie with kid gloves. In fact, there were a few walkouts in the crowd I saw the movie with which is not surprising considering the part of the U.S. that I live in. It is a shame because movies like this should challenge a person to seek out the facts as compared to what they were witness to on the screen. Alas, that is not the culture we live in today and I am going to try my best to keep from getting too political in this review, which will be a challenge as this is a political movie, since I am here to bring joy and peace to all kinds like a nerdy, thinner Santa Claus.
The best thing Vice offers as a movie is the performances of the actors involved in the film. There are some brilliant performances that go beyond impersonations by giving great mixtures of subtleness and emotion that flesh these famous people out. The most obvious actor that gives an award-worthy performance is Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. Much like Gary Oldman did in Darkest Hour, Bale has physically transformed himself into Cheney. He has the gruff growl that is Cheney’s voice, as well as that smirk, but Bale uses his eyes to convey so much emotion throughout the film. In the movie, Cheney isn’t much for excessive talking and Bale masterfully uses a look or a subtle turn of his head to let us know the wheels are turning on Cheney’s next political move. It is a great performance that keeps me interested in what Christian Bale is going to do next in his career.
The rest of the cast is as brilliant as Bale throughout the movie. Amy Adams plays Lynne, Dick’s wife, and this may be my favorite performance of hers, and that is saying a ton as I do love me some Amy Adams. Adams doesn’t play Lynne as a stand by your man type political wife. She is surprisingly cunning politically as well as a strong woman that knows what she wants for her husband and family and Adams absolutely owns this role. It felt like a different role for her and I enjoyed every moment she was on screen. Sam Rockwell is great as former President George W Bush, but Sam is great in damn near everything he does. He has the right mixture of goofiness and intelligence that made Bush such a “unique” character. I am a fan of Rockwell and he doesn’t disappoint in this movie. The last main actor I want to address is Steve Carell as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In my last review for Welcome to Marwen, I wasn’t to keen on his performance in that film, but he is perfect in Vice. He is smarmy and narcissistic, yet strangely likable and clever. Carell gives one of the best moments in the film when Rumsfeld learns he got screwed over by Cheney as he is both hurt and impressed by what his friend did to him. As I watched him I wondered where that acting was in Marwen! Overall the acting from top to bottom is excellent throughout the film and worth watching before they win all the awards!
From a pure filmmaking point of view, I loved what McKay did to present the story in Vice. With a few exceptions, that I will discuss soon, the movie keeps you entertained and off guard. There is a moment that uses end credits that had me laughing and was funnier in that one moment than anything on screen during Happytime Murders! ( if I could punch a movie in the face it would be Happytime Murders) McKay uses flashbacks at the perfect time to give you the idea of how we got to that point in the movie, as well as moments to add emotion to what the characters are going through. He even has characters break the fourth wall with the one at the end being simply powerful. As I stated earlier, these are not simple characters and McKay does add humanity to them instead of simply making them mustache-twirling villains. Cheney’s relationship with both of his daughters is sweet and loving especially with accepting his youngest daughter’s homosexuality. While that becomes an issue at the end of the film, thru most of the movie he tries to keep her from being hurt by the ugliness of life in the spotlight. Yes, he didn’t defend gay marriage but it was a surprisingly touching moment when he finds out she is gay and he makes sure she knows he loves her. There are moments throughout the movie that give you an emotional connection to each of the main characters that work effectively in making the moments they do something horrible so gut-wrenching. It is a well-crafted movie that entertains while still engaging you as a participant in this story. And have fun with the Shakespeare moment!
The only real negative I have for the movie is the moments that toss aside subtlety and hit you over the head with a baseball bat. There are nice moments that set up how a law was changed or how loopholes were found in order to gain more power only to be subverted by moments of in your face commentary that are straight out of a Michael Moore film. I get awful things were done with such greed for money and power at the expense of so many “regular” people, but I don’t need it smashed into my face. You, as a filmmaker, want me to use my brain and engage with the movie then let me do that, don’t treat me like a child that needs everything spelled out. I understand what McKay was doing but there were moments that it was too obvious. The other thing that needed more explaining was Cheney’s decision to enter politics and where his cunning and drive came from. We understand why he makes the change early in life but it is never explained why he goes into politics of all things. He had a knack for using the system to his advantage, but you never really know how that developed. It is the only thing, character-wise, that was somewhat frustrating.
We have reached the end of this long campaign and it is time to tally up the votes on Vice. Overall, I enjoyed the movie especially the performances of the main actors which are all award-worthy. Yes, this is a politically divisive movie but for those that bristle at this “liberal” take on a period of U.S. history, I will say go watch and know that this is what our leaders do in order to keep their power, even if it is at our expense. Both sides should do their research after the movie to see what it got right and what it fudged the facts with. It is ok to challenge yourself and hear different views to make yourself a well-rounded person, and, after all, it is the new year and time for the new you!
I hope you enjoyed this review and if you did please like and share with all of the lovely people browsing the interwebs. Please comment below as I would love to read your feedback!
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho