You’re Not Going to a movie called Vice – a chaotic, psychologically dense thicket out of which slinks the Beltway swamp creature Dick Cheney (an astounding Christian Bale, invisible under prosthetics) – expecting a revisionist perspective. That’s never going to happen. Cheney was actually a nice guy? Nope. And even though the frequently meta writer-director Adam McKay (The Big Short) provides us with an onscreen character who blasts the film we’re watching for its liberal bias, that self-own doesn’t get Vice off the hook. It’s still a big hunk of red meat, politically speaking.

The happy surprise, however, is that McKay has seasoned the meat in satisfying ways, salting it with wince-sharp performances and an almost experimental style of editing that creates an apocalyptic whirlwind. For those reasons alone, Vice feels particularly timely. Bale not only masters Cheney’s smirk and Halloween-mask hollowness (the performance harkens back to his iconic turn in American Psycho), he supplies the role with a blooming sense of viciousness, transitioning from a Ford-era bumpkin content to sit in his drab fluorescent-lit office to a savvy operator who thrives on vagueness. “What do we believe?” he earnestly asks his boss, a young Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carrel, dialed up to full chatterbox), getting only a guffaw in response. At home, it’s no easier: Dick has a hard-charging Wyoming wife, Lynne (Amy Adams), who cows him into submission. He has to get tough – and that’s exactly what he does.

Not all of it works: McKay leans on one metaphor too many and his screenplay’s bookends, starring a miscast Jesse Plemons, strain for depth but ultimately play like a sick joke. But the momentum kicks in again when it gets back to the jazzy flow once again.

Vice reminds us that we’ve seen worse: an administration of self-interested rotters who could actually get things done. This is not one to miss.

A daringly impressionistic biopic

Christian Bale’s uncanny portrayal of Cheney

Adam McKay

Jan 24 (18TC)

By Joshua Rothkopf | 27 Jan 2019


Release DateJanuary 01, 2015
DirectorBrian A Miller
CastingThomas Jane, Bruce Willis, Ambyr Childers