Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell
Director: Adam McKay
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: VICE explores the epic story about how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world as Vice-President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.
Well it would not be awards season without a controversial political biopic, and this year Vice fills this season’s spot. After 2015’s The Big Short, the world found out that Adam McKay is an incredibly talented filmmaker who can span genres outside of his traditionally goofy comedies, so the personal buildup for this movie has been suspenseful. Luckily, Vice delivers in almost every area imaginable. While not as strong as The Big Short, a career-best performance from Bale and a narrative that will stick with you long after you watch it make Vice one of the most powerful and provocative films of the year.
The film follows Dick Cheney (Vice) and his rise from a drunk party boy at Yale to the most powerful Vice President in the history of the United States. The film goes very in-depth to the level of involvement in politics from the bills that he helped support, to the people that he helped put in power, to the lengths that he went to make sure that he always came out on top regardless of who he burned along the way. This movie’s attempt at acclaim starts and ends with Bale’s performance, which ends up rivaling the best of his career. Bale very obviously put his heart and soul into this role from the amount of weight he gained for the character to the mannerisms and the way he speaks make it hard to separate the character from the actor in one of the year’s most immersive experiences. While Bale is the true star of the movie, his supporting team of Adams, Carell, and Rockwell all take their performances very seriously add their level of expertise to the movie. Adams and Rockwell in particular make a case for why they are some of the best supporting roles of the year, with Adams playing Cheney’s supporting yet equally ruthless wife Lynne while Rockwell plays former President George W. Bush who is no match for the lust for power that Cheney has. Bush may come off as a clown for most of the film, but McKay’s decision to show the contrasting scenes of Bush and Cheney’s decision to invade Iraq and showing just how nervous Bush is in doing it made him slightly sympathetic and shows that he has no idea how to play the political game and is going along with what is politically right rather than what is morally right. That brings me to the other thing that is very strong about this movie; the point it tries to prove. Your political leaning will very much shape the way you like this movie. If you are more right-leaning, this movie will probably either enrage you or you will dismiss it as untrue or fictionalized. Personally speaking, the way I felt is that these people should all be in jail and that their actions are all utterly despicable; until Cheney’s final scene. In this scene, Cheney completely tries to justify his actions and honestly makes a very captivating case for why he did the things he did. It made me think for a moment, “wait, was he right the whole time?” If he can do that to someone who hated his actions, I have to imagine he emboldens those who support his decisions. This is probably the most powerful point of the film, the fact that if you are charismatic and hungry enough for power, not only can you accomplish your goals, but people will justify your actions for you. This is not only relevant when Cheney was in power, but is a cognate point to this very day as we see a rise in radical populist leaders around the globe and is something we can away from the film and apply to our real life.
Overall, Vice can be viewed in a plethora of different ways, and while it might lose some of its message on those who are not willing to hear it, those who are open to it will be rewarded with superb performances and a story that blends both truth and comedy in a palpable way. Not many political films can so easily combine these elements and still prove its point, but with McKay at the helm and Bale in the lead role, anything is possible. The only remaining question is what comes after this film, not just for the actors and crew, but for society in general. Will this inspire people to take a more vested interest into the situations around them or will people finish watching this movie and then think, “what else is on?” Only time will tell.
Overall Score: 8.5/10