Film Review: VICE (directed by Adam McKay)

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by Joan Alperin on December 8, 2018

in Film


Watching the biopic Vice — written and directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short) — I found myself getting more and more irritated. Not because the film isn’t a brilliant exposé on one Dick Cheney but because Cheney is, in one simple word, a monster, one who got away with every single monstrous deed he perpetrated, including instigating the Iraq War and implementing Enhanced Interrogation Programs (a.k.a. torture), something he still supports to this day according to an interview he had with The Guardian in May of this year.

McKay takes us on a journey starting in Cheney’s birth place — Lincoln, Nebraska — in 1941. Cheney then goes from drunken teenager to flunking out of Yale twice to chief executive of Halliburton to a climb up the Washington ladder to being George Bush Jr’s Vice President. Throughout, Cheney plots, manipulates, threatens, lies, and performs one despicable act after another — eventually making him the most powerful man in the United States (Bush lacked the the intelligence to be President, and that made it easy for his veep to run the show). In mind-boggling ways that reverberate into today, he is the man who not only reshaped our country but the world. The worst atrocity he committed was lying in order to get us into the Iraq War, a conflict which is not only responsible for over 460,000 deaths but made Halliburton — under Cheney’s tenure — half a billion dollars.

Sam Rockwell nails it in his portrayal of Bush, delivering an eerily perfect impression of the man who allowed Cheney to open the door for the Trumpian tactics of today. As for the weight-gaining Christian Bale, nearly all traces of him vanish once Cheney slips into VP mode — it’s as if Cheney was playing himself. Casting Director Francine Maisler’s ensemble members all disappear into their roles: Amy Adams (Lynne Cheney, Dick’s power-hungry wife), Steve Carell (Donald Rumsfeld), Tyler Perry (Colin Powell), and Alison Pill (Cheney’s gay daughter, Mary) are just a few in this huge cast.

With McKay’s smart dialogue, Greig Fraser’s great camera work, and a ginormous makeup team’s amazing prosthetics and seamless wigs, we are insiders at the White House, watching how the machine of these power- and money-hungry men expertly manipulate the public. Surprisingly comedic, Vice ends up a profoundly sad and disturbing statement on how easily the public gets duped, buying into the distortion and deceit from elected officials. Knowing that Cheney got away with the heinous acts he committed and how his actions led to who is in the White House today makes the film even harder to watch. At the same time, it’s one of the most important films of 2018.

Annapurna Pictures
United States | rated R | 132 minutes
in wide release December 25, 2018

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Bailey December 10, 2018 at 9:34 pm

Joan, this is a great review, one of your very best!


Joan Alperin December 11, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Thank you so much.


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