For his role as Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice, actor Christian Bale is on the way to another Oscar for Best Actor in Adam McKay’s newest film.
While the current administrations’s activities make us long for the days of the Bush Administration, Vice reminds us that maybe this should not be the case. Roughly two hours, this film is a study of Cheney’s lust for power. When he gets the call from George W. Bush in 2000, wife Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) reminds him that there’s no power in that position. Okay, fine. Lo and behold, Cheney finds a way to make the position mean something. Oh, does he ever! Those memos? They’re still sitting inside the DOJ computers if anybody ever bothers to look.
While the film starts during the horror of 9/11, McKay soon takes us back to a different time. We see younger Cheney attending a Congressional Internship Program orientation. It just so happens that then-Illinois Congressman Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) was speaking. Cheney knows then and there that he wants to work with Rumsfeld. Thus, we soon pave the way for the greatest callback ever some 14 years after Anchorman‘s release. Well done, Adam. Well done.
I’m glad this scene finally paid off pic.twitter.com/TssqpTP9dZ
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) October 3, 2018
As Rumsfeld rises in power, so, too, does Cheney. All because Rumsfeld fell out of Nixon’s circle! Had Rumsfeld been involved with Nixon during Watergate, history would certainly be different. When Gerald Ford (Bill Camp) becomes president, Rumsfeld becomes his Chief of Staff. The Halloween Massacre of 1976 would see a shift: Rumsfeld becomes the youngest Defense Secretary and Cheney replaces him.
When Jimmy Carter defeats Ford in 1976, Cheney is out of a job. Looking for work and wanting that power, he makes a run for Congress. The Dick Cheney who runs for Congress in 1978 isn’t a charismatic speaker. So how is it this guy ends up being the SECOND HIGHEST PERSON IN POWER?!? Ten years in Congress leads to a gig under President George H.W. Bush (John Hillner) as Defense Secretary. There comes a point in which Cheney explores a run for office but just as those plans begin to take place, Mary Cheney (Alison Pill) comes out as a lesbian. Right-wing think tanks were rising so Cheney joins the American Enterprise Institute. When your daughter is a lesbian, a presidential run is seemingly out the window because of conservative politics.
Then the phone call. George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) needs a running mate. Cheney knows there’s no power so the then-Halliburton CEO is like, I’ll find someone. It’s through legal adviser David Addington (Don McManus) that he learns about the unitary executive theory. This gives him a way to find the power needed so Cheney offers the job to himself.
All of this is tackled with the serious tone needed for such a drama. That being said, writer-director Adam McKay finds a way to inject his own comedic tone every now and then. These are the same elements that worked in McKay’s favor with The Big Short. Even though the film won a few Solzy Awards for drama, the film falls into some sort of hybrid genre that is neither drama nor comedy. This is something that works in the film’s favor to much success. All while watching Christian Bale most definitely acting his way to another Oscar nomination. Really. His transformation is absolutely unbelievable.
When Adam McKay has a new film come out, I circle the day on my calendar. This is a writer-director who has never had a miss behind the camera. His news film proves to be no exception. I’ve been impressed to see Adam take his career from a comedy director to that of a serious director. There’s certainly a lot to be said about the political subtext of his films as McKay bids to be seen as a serious filmmaker. This isn’t to say anything negative about previous films but Anchorman is hardly Oscar material.
As a filmmaker, I’ve noticed this change in the way that McKay approaches his films as a writer/director. While the two Anchorman films certainly offer something to say about sexism in the work place, The Other Guys (2010) is where we start to notice McKay’s shift as a filmmaker. Noticeably, things take a tremendous change with The Big Short. This is the film that delivered McKay his first Oscar and rightfully so. This Dick Cheney biopic continues to show the evolution of McKay the filmmaker.
Vice may feature Christian Bale doing his thing as former VP Dick Cheney but McKay isn’t afraid of showing the political subtext. He’s not afraid of inserting that political message during a late film montage reminding us of the current shitshow we’re living in. At times, the message comes through by way of humor. The film’s mid-point is so hysterical and paves the way for the longest post-credits sequence. It’s something that should make one both laugh and cry.
While Adam McKay’s films have always had a political subtext, Vice may just be the writer-director’s strongest outing by far.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Adam McKay
CAST: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Jesse Plemons, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Tyler Perry, Justin Kirk, LisaGay Hamilton, Shea Whigham, and Eddie Marsan