‘Beware the quiet man. For while others speak, he watches…’
Adam McKay’s journey from the director of iconic comedies such as Anchorman and Step Brothers to a proper heavyweight filmmaker via the minor masterpiece that was The Big Short should serve as inspiration for any actor or director who fears becoming typecast. McKay followed that meditation on the financial crash with Vice – a biopic based around Dick Cheney, former Vice President of the United States of America and war mongering tyrant. While Vice never quite scales the heights of The Big Short, this is still vital filmmaking…
Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) comes from humble beginnings having been kicked out of Yale and almost losing his life partner Lynne (Amy Adams) due to a string of drunken incidents. Along with President George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell ), Cheney is perhaps the single person most responsible for the so-called war on terror that has defined the last two decades.
As with The Big Short, McKay has chosen a complicated and nuanced issue here, and as with his previous film, the American director utilises a number of disparate techniques including time slips, narration, breaking of the fourth wall and Alfred Molina dressed as a waiter explaining to both Cheney and the viewer the varying methods of torture available to the United States government. Sure, it’s not Margot Robbie in a bathtub, but it’s still affecting.
McKay goes big on his cast here and Bale is, of course, wonderful, fully inhabiting all aspects of Cheney, a man who is a complicated figure. Adams delivers a slightly less bombastic performance but this perhaps demonstrates how central Cheney believes himself to be in his own orbit. Elsewhere, Carell delivers a flamboyant and fun performance as Rumsfeld and a restrained Rockwell does a great impression of Dubya. A word too for Jesse Plemons who does a great job anchoring the whole thing as the narrator.
Vice takes a subject matter that is not obviously cinematic and spins gold out of McKay’s assured direction and a strong performance from his cast. It’s a shame that the embarrassing post credits scene leaves a bad taste because aside from that, there is little here to denigrate. A solid and unusual biopic from a divisive yet talented director.