Adam McKay has proven himself to be one of the most influential writers of American comedies in the 21st Century.  Since starting off on Saturday Night Live, he has written and directed such hit comedies as Step Brothers, Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, The Other Guys, and the internet’s favorite: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. However, in 2015 he proved he could do serious by directing The Big Short,  a dark comedy about the financial crisis of the late 2000s. This earned  him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Now McKay delivers  another serious film with Vice, concerning the history of former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

Excellent acting from a brilliant cast

Image from IMDb

What’s tricky about doing a biopic about an important political  figure like Dick Cheney is portraying him properly. If the portrayal was  done poorly the entire film would come across like a bad, feature  length Saturday Night Live sketch. Fortunately though, the  casting and performances that are amazing all around. The biggest  standout in the cast is Christian Bale portraying Cheney himself.  Similarly to his roles in films such as The Machinist or American Hustle,  Bale completely transforms himself into the role to the point where he  almost becomes unrecognizable. Bale’s performance easily makes the movie  worth the ticket price. 

The other members of the cast are just as strong. Amy Adams does a  great job of portraying Dick’s wife Lynne Cheney, especially early in  the two’s relationship. The always-excellent Sam Rockwell nails his role  as George W. Bush, incorporating Bush’s speaking patterns, mannerisms,  and even facial expressions. The only real weak link of the cast is  Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld. It’s not that Carrell does an overall  bad job in the role, but his performance is hit or miss. He works best  when portraying an older Rumsfeld in the 2000s; however, when the film  is in the 1970s-1980s it comes across as Carrell playing a jerkier  version of Michael Scott. 

Unique, interesting presentation

Despite being marketed as a dark comedy like The Big Short, Vice is mostly played as a straightforward biopic with comedic elements here or there. However, like The Big Short, it has a very unique way of presenting itself, and that alone makes it an interesting watch. The film opens with text stating that the film is a true story, or as true as one can get when talking about a man as secretive as Dick Cheney. The text concludes by saying that the filmmakers “tried their f*cking best.”

The majority of the film is narrated by an Iraq War veteran (played  by Jesse Plemons) who stops to explain unfamiliar concepts like the  unitary executive theory to the audience. The film also alternates to a  news anchor played by Naomi Watts to provide additional exposition. This  is similar to what McKay did in The Big Short where he would  cut to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath or the late Anthony Bourdain  cutting up a fish in order to explain complex economic subjects to the  audience.

Image from IMDb

The strong presentation choices do not end there. There are other  scenes that have a unique way of showing how Cheney conducted his term  as Vice President. One scene with Cheney assuming power shows the  various government agents as pieces on a game board with agents rolling  the dice. In another, Cheney’s options on how to conduct the War on  Terror are shown as him having dinner at a restaurant, where a waiter  (played by Alfred Molina) presents each of his options as if they were  items on a menu. However, the humor of these presentations really shines  when Lynne goes off on a Shakespearean monologue about taking over the  world on the night before Cheney becomes the Vice President, right after  the narration says that they have no idea what the couple said before  this fateful night. Another humorous moment comes in the middle of the  film, when the filmmakers pretend that the movie is over with the  Cheney’s working in the private sector and avoiding politics. Fake  ending credits appear before a phone call interrupts them, in which Bush  gives Cheney the offer to become his running mate. 

However, while most of these unique forms of presentation work in the  film’s favor, others do not. The film makes use of montages in the  decades the film takes place in. This includes the infamous Budweiser  “Whassup?” commercial being juxtaposed against imagery of the Abu Gharib  prison scandal. These montages can take one out of the movie, and by  the end, start to drag.  Another thing that the film does is briefly  skim through events after it reaches the invasion of Iraq. The film  should’ve taken more time to expand on certain events after this point,  and many little tidbits they did include end up feeling tacked on as a  result.

Images: IMDb

Featured Image: IMDb

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