Last night I got the opportunity to sit down and watch Vice (2018) finally. It was glorious.
Directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short, Step Brothers), this movie injects humor into the rise of Dick Cheney. Told somewhat out of order in a way that serves its narrative, the film has a very personal touch to it. McKay has churned out something that is fresh, fun, and different in a time when blockbuster movies all seem like carbon copies.
The actors must also be congratulated for incredible performances. Christian Bale, known for his role as Batman, takes on the character Dick Cheney with a gruff accuracy. Amy Adams is phenomenal as usual, playing Lynne Cheney, Dick’s wife. Jesse Plemons plays a great narrator that guides us through the film, and even Tyler Perry played a believable Colin Powell. However, Steve Carell may have stolen the show entirely with his role as Donald Rumsfeld.
When Vice was first announced, it stormed Twitter and elicited a massive response, both positive and negative. From one cliff it was shouted: “how dare Adam McKay humanize Dick Cheney,” to which the echo replied: “how dare Adam McKay demonize Dick Cheney.”
Personally, I had no strong feelings about either Dick Cheney or George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) who is also humanized/demonized in the second half of the movie. I was not old enough to comprehend the news cycles during which the two were focused on, and therefore have an incomplete view of their administration. Which, actually might make me the most qualified to talk about the politics of this film.
Adam McKay didn’t pull any punches. He both humanized and demonized Cheney and Bush, as well as others, but towards the ending of the movie he tried his best to make Cheney seem like a heartless bastard, using the obvious metaphor of Cheney’s heart transplant. The film suffers for it, mostly because the sequence pads the lengthy runtime. However, the transplant scene reveals that the narrator we have been subjected to throughout the movie is actually Cheney’s organ donor, in a move I think works well.
Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was somewhere in the middle, when credits start to roll as if the film is over. Text appears over images of the happy Cheney family, describing what could have been. But then a phone rings and Bush is on the line. The Vice Presidency is Cheney’s if he wants it. And of course he does, after some plotting. The future Cheney family, where they happily raise golden retrievers is gone, says McKay, replaced by one dark and cold.
McKay does his best to prove to the audience that what we are watching is the vilest of creatures clamber for power. We’re told Cheney is not someone who is principled or wants to help the nation. He desires influence and wealth and war and nothing else. McKay also pins the rise of ISIS solely on the shoulders on Dick Cheney. This is revisionist history, as you’ll get a different answer of where ISIS came from every time you ask.
But the film needed a villain, and the villain needed a dupe. George W. Bush was played as merely a puppet of Cheney, also something that is not entirely accurate. McKay demonized Bush simply by making him look as stupid and foolish as possible. The scene where Cheney asks Bush to hand over much of the executive’s power to him cuts to shots of Cheney laughing so we can catch a glimpse of what’s inside Cheney’s mind as he takes advantage of Bush. Most of us know Bush to be of a much higher character and ability than that McKay projects on him.
Vice is a brutal story about power, history, and politics. Montages show our hero Cheney maneuvering conservative organizations and figures as The Heritage Foundation and even The Cato Institute are mentioned, to cheering movie-goers (might’ve just been me). Grover Norquist (Tony Forsmark) makes an appearance, as does the late Justice Antonin Scalia (Matthew Jacobs). It’s an excellent tale told through some humor and an impressive style.
As usual, the verdict comes down to a simple conservative decision. Should you pay money to see it?
Yes, and invite me along too.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.