Christian Bale in Adam McKay's Vice


Dept. of Dicks


Adam McKay has always been an entertaining filmmaker. Known primarily for making Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly comedies (Both Anchorman movies, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, The Other Guys, Get Hard), he took an interesting turn to more serious topics when he released The Big Short in 2015, winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and a nomination for that year’s Best Picture award. Vice follows in that vein. “Serious” topic, but a movie that’s definitely not in the “Drama” category.

Vice is the story of the truly unlikely rise of Dick Cheney, portrayed just absolutely magnificently by Christian Bale, from a Wyoming “ne’er do well”, to Washington intern, to the White House, by way of several heart attacks, until ultimately, the vice presidency. 

Christian Bale and Amy Adams in Adam McKay's Vice

In casting Christian Bale as Cheney, McKay was able to get an actor who was able to bring to life what the the real man was often described to be; a deep thinking, strategic, and manipulative political operative. In this movie, Dick Cheney transforms from a soft spoken and loyal assistant to Steve Carell’s Donald Rumsfeld early in his career, to a master manipulator when dealing with Sam Rockwell’s naive and inept George W. Bush when offered the role of Vice President. Amy Adams puts in a stellar performance as Mrs Cheney, the strong, sometimes pushy, but always supportive wife, who, in a different time, would’ve probably run for office herself. 

Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell's George W. Bush in Vice

Adam McKay’s movies always make me feel smarter just by having seen them. Even if I don’t understand some of the “asides” he uses to explain stuff, I’m always entertained and that’s enough most of the time. From Margot Robbie explaining sub-prime mortgages in a bubble bath, to Selena Gomez explaining synthetic CDO (I wasn’t really able to keep up), Vice has got a few amusing, and interesting “asides” as well.

The “asides” however belie a seriousness in the situations we are watching. I wonder if the funny “asides” (there’s a great bit with the narrator, but I won’t spoil it for you) distract and detract from the gravity of the situation. This is a man who had shot a member of his own party in the face while on a hunting trip, only for the victim to apologise in public for having inconvenienced the Vice President. By being shot. In the face. By the Vice President. True story.

Christian Bale as Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice

Did Cheney and his inner circle really think that little about skirting the Geneva Convention? Was it always his plan to assume more power in his position as Vice President than any other Vice President in the past? We’ll never know, but this movie makes the case that it was part of his plan, that it was easy, and that Dick Cheney certainly felt that it was the right thing to do.

Vice certainly is a good watch for any number of reasons; the performances are excellent (they garnered 3 Academy Award nominations in 2019 – Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor ). It is also a very engaging watch, even if you don’t know these stories and come at them as a piece of entertainment. The best way to watch this movie, however, is as a piece of political satire. It is based on true events, but may not necessarily be true in itself. We may never how those conversations went, but what we do know, is that a lot of what happened, happened.

Also, stay past the first round of credits. There is a little post credit sting that if anything, is probably reflective of how Adam McKay really feels about movie audiences in the 21st century and how his movie will be received.

132 minutes
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Adam McKay
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, and Tyler Perry

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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