Vice Movie Review
Review Date: 18/01/2019
Genre: Drama, Politics, Biography
UK Release Date: 25-01-2019
Studio: Annapurna Pictures
It’s usually hard to get the balance right in films about politics; there are a lot of facts that you need to get across to the public, situations that need to be covered without the necessary time for a full backstory and, more often than not, a large cast of characters that need to be portrayed fairly and accurately.
When you think of political films, you might think of Michael Moore’s documentaries that rely on his personality to get the facts across or perhaps All The President’s Men which is quite a heavy-going film and relies heavily on the casting of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman to keep audiences engaged. When I first saw the trailer for Vice, I was intrigued as I wondered how they would manage to tell the story of Vice President Dick Cheney when the cast of surrounding characters (George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld etc.) are so well known and Cheney was more of the quiet man in the background.
Christian Bale stars as Dick Cheney, part of American Politics “Royal Family”. Cheney’s life started out on a rocky path after being kicked out of Yale for partying too hard, receiving two DUIs in quick succession and generally going off the rails. It took a stern talking to from then girlfriend (and later wife) Lynne to get him back on the straight and narrow and out of his dead-end job as a powerline fitter and into the world of politics.
What I found surprising was the sheer length of time Cheney had been involved in politics in and around the White House. I had assumed that he’d just been brought in to George W. Bush’s team because of this business experience and Bush’s fondness for cow-towing to big industry. It turns out that Cheney’s start in politics dates right the way back to the Nixon administration (and if that doesn’t speak volumes then I don’t know what will!)
Far from being a dry retelling of his rise to immense power, this story is an engaging and often amusing look and the inner workings of the American political system and how it can be manipulated if someone wants to abuse that system and gain ultimate power.
Bale, to me, is one of those performers who is either excellent (The Machinist for example) or terrible (Terminator Salvation) and I’m happy to report that he’s outstanding in his portrayal of Cheney – both in terms of physicality and his voice. Also outstanding are Amy Adams as Cheney’s wife Lynne who is as ambitious as Dick (if not more so) and Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld and all 3 deserve Oscar nominations for their performances. If there’s one weak link in the Cheney (ha!) that’s got to be Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.
Rockwell just doesn’t seem to capture the mannerisms of Bush, the only physical nod to him is the hairstyle and he doesn’t even attempt to imitate Bush’s way of speaking – I have to wonder why he was chosen for this part when everyone else is so very close to the characters they are portraying and it’s just like he’s showed up and gone “Oh, okay, I can be myself then”.
The story is weaved together through a series of important events – Nixon resigning, Ford losing the election, Regan getting elected, 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq – and these are explained and narrated by an unnamed man who says that he’s “sort of related to Cheney but I’ll explain that later”.
If you’re not American, you don’t need to worry that you won’t understand the political goings on as our narrator explains the complex points with the incredulity that you’ll feel yourself once you realise what Cheney and his cohorts did once he got into the White House.
He’s been described as “The most powerful Vice President in history” and, if the events of this film are as they are portrayed, I’d go even further to say he’s probably the most powerful American politician in history.
I’d like to think that everything that Cheney did was for the good of the people however this film does make me question his motivations – especially given his links to Halliburton. Perhaps a revisiting of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” is in order after viewing this.
I’ve given this film 9/10 and it’s certainly well deserved. It may even have gotten a 10 if Sam Rockwell hadn’t let the side down and if Steve Carell’s Rumsfeld had recreated the “Known Unknown” speech.
Watch this film if you’re fed up of all of the arguments over Brexit and want to realise how lucky we are in the UK to have the political system we do.