Adam McKay’s work has gotten far more serious than his earlier stuff. The Big Short (2015) was his first foray into dealing with real issues while still weaving his comedic background into the story. Vice (2018) takes a few of the elements of The Big Short, and goes a bit more aggressive with taking a stance focusing in on Vice President Dick Cheney.
McKay uses Vice to paint a portrait of Dick Cheney that’s quite horrifying
McKay’s new film follows the life of Cheney (Christian Bale) and his wife Lynne (Amy Adams), initially painting him to be slightly more empathetic than the man who will eventually take a seat in the White House as vice president under George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell). Cheney is shown to be a bit of a slacker early, but with Lynne’s pushing, he finds himself as an intern for Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), a friendship that will only help Cheney find his footing in politics.
Bale’s performance is without a doubt the highlight. His method style is evident right away with the weight he gained for the role. Then, his speech patterns nearly make you forget that it’s Bale and not Cheney in the film – not to take away from Adams, Carell, or Rockwell, who all give solid performances in their respective roles. Jesse Plemons was the big surprise in the cast, as he plays a guy named Kurt who is the narrator for a reason that isn’t revealed until far later in the movie. It’s with Kurt that McKay’s style really sets in.
In The Big Short, McKay utilized celebrities to break down complicated laws for the way the housing market would be crashing. It was the viewer’s take on these moments that seemed to either make them love or hate that film. He again introduces these fourth wall breaking, satirical style scenes that are different than his previous film but serve the same purpose to explain complex ideas through accessible metaphors. I believe some of these moments will make or break a person’s opinion of the movie. For me, the scenes mostly worked, and I found some of them to be unbelievably entertaining while simultaneously gut-wrenching. The claims levied at the former VP make him seem very much a villain.
That is where there is some room for concern. Many of the moments that are presented as fact or recreations of events that transpired take a lot of liberty in the idea of knowledge. There is no way to know what exactly Cheney did behind closed doors, but McKay clearly has a belief that runs throughout this film. I’m not a politically-minded person and prefer to think of myself as a humanitarian before attaching myself to a single party. Still, it is easy to see how this film could be quite polarizing.
Whether or not you agree with McKay or Cheney, it would be hard to argue against the entertainment Vice is able to provide. It’s a long film, but it manages to be engaging early on and stays that way for most of the movie. There are a few scenes that felt like they could have been cut to bring the runtime under two hours, but nothing to take you out of the experience. Vice earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.