VICE is an occasionally very funny film that contains a great performance. But it's also an overlong, baggy mess in which half of what the director throws at the film fails to stick. Even worse, it's a film that pretends to be as close to factual as possible, even while committing the cardinal mistake of painting Bush 43 as nice but stupid (he was neither). And worst of all, it's a film that pretends to give us some kind of emotional truth about Cheney's loving home life while accusing him of being a venal power-hungry shit. This is all fine, so long as you don't then claim that what you're doing isn't partisan but "factual". It's simply asinine for a movie director to claim that he's just showing us facts, when he's already admitted that much of what Cheney did is secret. You can't claim that it's fact that Cheney did X or thought Y. And to then throw in a mid-credits sequence that wants to cut off criticisms of the film as being nonsense, because it's factual.... well this is the worst kind of bullshit.
But anyway, there are many good performances in bad films. Christian Bale's depiction of Dick Cheney is indeed a great performance and worth the ticket price. Unlike Rami Malek donning some fake teeth and an accent to play Freddie Mercury, Bale goes way beyond a mere impression (as perfect as his accent is). In fact, it's pretty insulting to see both of these performances nominated for the same award. Bale inhabits his character - gives him nuance, and depth, and a whole range of emotions. He has Cheney be a genuinely loyal steadfast father, a loving and proud husband, an almost absurdly slow-moving politician, but also a greedy, conniving, Machiavellian thinker. When Bale's Cheney turns to the screen at the end of the film to address us, I utterly believed his apologia pro vita sua to be authentic and convincing.
Bale is matched in his endeavours by Amy Adams as his wife Lynne, but I'm pretty sick of two-dimensional Lady MacBeth characters and found little to really engage with. I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, but he's played, literally, for laughs. But Sam Rockwell looked like a Mad magazine version of W. So yeah - this is pretty much a one-man show.
As for McKay, the gonzo collage style directing that made THE BIG SHORT so successful goes haywire in VICE. This film is indulgent, over-long, bizarre, heavy-handed, bludgeoning. I get the fishing metaphor Adam! I don't need to continually cut back to a sinister looking fish moving through water or have end-credits of bait. I also really think I'd rather not have you use Cheney's heart-transplant donor - a young dead veteran - mouth your script from beyond the grave. That's just distasteful. Overall, I don't want to get my politics from Mad magazine, and that's what this film is.
VICE has a running time of 132 minutes and is rated R. It was released last December in most global markets. It will play Berlin 2019.
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