Review: Vice

PLOT: Vice explores the rise of Dick Cheney as one of the most powerful men to have ever become the Vice President of the United States.

REVIEW: VICE from Adam McKay gives an inside look at the private life of Vice President Dick Cheney. It is also essentially a love story between he and his wife, Lynne. And frankly, as a feature film, VICE is exceptional. With a mind-blowing lead performance from Christian Bale, it examines the Bush/Cheney years in a fascinating, and yes, darkly satirical way. It is rare that a filmmaker can explore such a deep and secretive time in modern history, yet do it in a way that is at times hilarious and other times absolutely frightening. While the film clearly deals openly with politics, it still manages to treat its subject with care and never as a punchline. Still, it is not afraid to look back at this complicated time with a bit of a smirk. Even with an opening title card that reads, “The following is a true story. Or as true as it can be given that Dick Cheney is known as one of the most secretive leaders in history. But we did our f*cking best.”

We first meet Dick Cheney (Bale) as a Yale student who drank his way to expulsion. When his girlfriend Lynne (Amy Adams) demands he change his ways, his love and admiration take over. Thus, Dick’s political career began. The film follows his work as Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford after Nixon’s resignation, to his work as Chair of the House Republican Conference and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. And finally his years as Vice President to George. W. Bush. The film follows his career, his fiercely strong relationship with his wife, and of course, the moment that changed history forever, the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

vice dick cheney lynne cheney christian bale amy adams steve carrell adam mckay sam rockwell president george w. bush satire comedy drama 2018

With THE BIG SHORT, McKay explored the period in time when the housing bubble burst in an effective way. His unique and comedic storytelling brought this complex story to life brilliantly. In VICE, he manages to handle the material similarly by presenting his subject without demonizing or blindly praising him. This is Dick and Lynne’s story. It is a fascinating behind-the-scenes of what happens in Washington, and just how damn complex the political landscape can be. The film never falls into mockery, and the performances are handled without treating the script like a Saturday Night Live skit. This is a sharply written, impressively shot feature that runs the gamut of humor to real life drama.

Christian Bale is a remarkable talent. Yet, somehow he always surprises and this is certainly no exception. Even in Cheney's younger years, the actor brings a soft-spoken reality to Cheney. As he moves further on into his career and his age sets in, the make-up effects and his weight gain merge to make one of the most amazing physical transformations of his already impressive career. Bale simply is Dick Cheney here. It is uncanny how well he disappears and truly becomes unrecognizable in the role. He creates a fully fleshed out human being. This is not a characterization in any way shape or form, nor is he painted as simply a villain or a patriot, depending on your own point of view.

vice dick cheney lynne cheney christian bale amy adams sam rockwell president george w. bush adam mckay political satire drama comedy 2018As for Lynne, Amy Adams gives yet another stunning portrayal. When we first meet her, she is a firecracker refusing to let herself be abused or mistreated in any way. It was enlightening to see a little bit of where she came from and why she was so desperate to rise above it. Like Bale, the actress creates an unbiased portrait of Mrs. Cheney. While there are certainly shades of Lady Macbeth in her desire for her and her husband to rise to the top, it never feels like a joke. There is real heart in their on-screen relationship.

All the performances here are impressive. Sam Rockwell creates a shockingly realistic take on President George W. Bush, while Steve Carrell’s Donald Rumsfeld is also quite an entertaining portrayal. Yet, none of this could have worked without some of the best and most realistic make-up effects you could imagine. Certainly watching a big summer blockbuster with monsters and such is always a treat, but the authenticity of Bush, Cheney and the rest is undeniably stupendous.

VICE is a terrific film, yet it is sure to be a bit divisive due to its political nature. And perhaps some of the humor doesn't fully connect at times. There is still no denying the talented cast and the shockingly realistic make-up effects. It works best as a sharply drawn satire that isn’t afraid to treat the story seriously enough to make an impact. Christian Bale and Amy Adams create a dynamic take on the real life couple, without descending into camp or mockery. Yet it is still very funny, challenging and enjoyable. Adam McKay continues to bring his own sense of humor to more serious material in a refreshingly original way. By breaking the fourth way, or having a fake ending or two, this is a uniquely engaging look at one of the most powerful figureheads in modern history.

Review: Vice




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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.