Movies for Breakfast VICE Review
Adam McKay has returned, this time to talk about Dick Cheney.
The story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.
Returning to writing and directing once more, Adam McKay gives us a documentary style movie about Dick Cheney. People who are familiar with The Big Short will feel the similarity in this one. The similarities in style and approach to the storytelling between the two is uncanny. Even when first going to see Vice I did not recall that Adam McKay previously wrote and directed The Big Short. Within minutes of watching this movie though, the comparison came to mind. Vice follows the exact form of storytelling McKay used in The Big Short and it continues to work here to drive the information and story.
Vice manages to make a story about politics, a normally bland topic, very interesting to watch. Given Adam McKay’s research into Dick Cheney, it is suffice to say that Vice is as accurate as possible to the events that unfolded during his career. The movie even starts by saying the movie is based on true events, to the best of McKay’s ability given Cheney’s secrecy. There are plenty of scenes that are changed for the movies purpose, though they do not necessarily tell the events in an untrue manner. More moving events around and adding dialogue in order to get points across that would be boring to convey otherwise. Which is something Vice does exceptionally well at, turning boring reading material into an actually fun to watch movie. Such as a conversation between Cheney and Rumsfeld that take place outside of Nixon’s office for a meeting off the record. While the meeting in Nixon’s office did occur, the fact Cheney and Rumsfeld would be discussing the matter of the meeting right outside the door are not how that event played out. So the truth is there, but changed for the sake of streamlining the movie in parts.
The movie does a back and forth between skits playing up the situations at hand, and then segments of acting, some narration, and then remade video of news casts and leaked footage. It uses different mechanisms to tell the story in an interesting way, and keeping the audiences attention. There are a few moments where dialogue is slow, but the movie make sure to keep the attention of viewers in some manner. Even going as far as to use insane ways to describe things Cheney was doing, such as using a restaurant menu to list the different way Cheney used to get around legal matters. At times, it does not feel like a Hollywood production though, even with the high caliber cast. It sometimes comes off as a documentary made for YouTube with a high budget.
Vice does not pull any punches by any means, going through Dick Cheney’s life from his start at the white house during the Nixon administration, all the way to his vice presidency under George Bush. Showing the way he manipulated the people around him, changing the game of the presidency and the power a vice president has. The amount of power that Dick Cheney had during the two terms he served as vice president were unheard of before him. The influence he had during the events of September 11th, and then the proceeding wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even Dick Cheney’s part in allowing the rise of ISIS to occur. A lot of the motions he put into action are even still relevant today, and can be used by any president or vice president going forward. He completely changed the landscape of the power of the white house during his time there. Vice does not make light of the actions Dick Cheney made, but they do not outright say he had ill intent with these actions. They tell the story and the facts, and even portray Dick as someone who knew what he was doing, but had the mentality that it was necessary to protect his country. The movie even ends with a statement from this perspective of Cheney.
There is great care taken to make sure that every detail within this movie is simplified in a way those without a background in politics understand it. Much like The Big Short did for people who did not understand the financial crisis that occurred. Vice makes sure everyone can understand the significance of Cheney’s actions, even those who have not been following Dick Cheney’s career. Information is presented in such a way that it is actually retained as well, prior to this movie all I could tell you about Dick Cheney was he was vice president and that he shot his friend while quail hunting. After seeing Vice though, I feel like I could loosely walk someone through his entire career in politics. Vice will really open the eyes of most people who did not realize how much of politics were changed due to Dick Cheney. The fact Vice is entertaining on its own outside of all that as well, it stands up better than a documentary could when conveying all this information.
A big part of what keeps Vice going so smoothly is the cast. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, and even Tyler Perry fill out the cast and bring these characters to life. The makeup artists that worked on Vice deserve some kind of award. If any of the actors took to the streets in the makeup from this movie they would be instantly recognized as that person and not who they really are. Christian Bale is not someone I would have thought would play such a great Dick Cheney. Not only does he pull off the look, but the mannerisms, and way of speaking as well. In Vice he literally becomes Dick Cheney. Vice is a testament to these actors’ abilities to jump into a role. Every character on screen was the person they were portraying. I did not see Christian Bale at all in this movie, I saw Dick Cheney. Sam Rockwell was not in nowhere to be seen, they put his name in the credits so we would not know George Bush was just playing himself in this film. This is true for every single actor in this film. There are few movies where I can look beyond the actor and only see who they are portraying. In Vice though, every actor pulls this off spectacularly.
Vice seemed to slide under the radar given its Christmas debut among other movies such as Aquaman, Bumblebee, and Mary Poppins. Nonetheless, Vice is one that will hold up for quite some time like many of Adam McKay’s other works. I can see this movie thriving on streaming services later in 2019. In addition, Vice works as a great introduction to the politics within the White House during the George Bush administration. Vice does come off as a very one-sided argument though, which I can see many people posing it at a propaganda film, but the events are not portrayed in a manner unfair to Dick Cheney. They present the information as it occurred and as things happened during that time, and they even remark on it in the end of the movie. The movies intent is not so much to say Dick Cheney was evil or a terrible person, but to show the changes he made to the government. Vice does so in a brilliant way that is informative and entertaining.