Vice (I) (2018)
User ReviewsReview this title
Just like in The Big Short, the amount of information McKay throws at you is a little overwhelming, especially if you don't fully understand it. It is a little slower paced of a movie, but the way he frames every scene has such gusto that you can't take your eyes off the screen.
Other than the brilliant script the main thing to note in this movie is the perfect casting. Christian Bale and Amy Adams teaming up again, this time as Dick and Lynne Cheney further prove they should team up in every movie together. Christian Bale is so believable as Dick Cheney that you suddenly forget that you are even watching Bale at all. Then you have Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, Naomi Watts, Lily Rabe, Jesse Plemons (in a role that I did NOT see coming), and plenty more.
There is a fantastic scene between Lynne and Dick where Plemons' character narrating notes - that we wouldn't know what they actually would have said in this certain moment, but he images it would be something quite Shakespearian. Then Lynne and Dick start talking like they are in Macbeth. Their chemistry is just fantastic and you get to see how much Lynne stepped up, and her ambitions and reservations with going into this political world.
As much as this movie paints Cheney as a villain, McKay still gave him depth and compassionate moments, and showing all of his health troubles. You really see how this man became the most powerful VP that we have ever had in the history of the U.S. Presidency and how scary that is because it is all true. We have lived it.
This movie is definitely not for everyone but I really enjoyed it. There is a funny after credits scene that shows how divided our country is, and the quote above is exactly what you should be asking yourself at the end of the movie. So, what do we believe?
To put it bluntly, it was the worst administration of all time, and as the film states early, I think that many Americans have either forgotten it or never really paid attention to it completely. When Democrats describe their worst fears of possible Trump disasters, I don't think that they know that they are describing things that *actually occurred* during the first decade of this century. When Bale as Cheney looks directly into the camera and delivers a monologue-- or postmortem-- about his tenure as vice president, it might remind you of Emperor Palpatine's rationalizations in the Star Wars prequels. As the film shows, at the time there were justifications for unitary executive privilege that were written by a single moron and apparently regarded as gospel-- and can be used as precedent by future presidents. And I probably don't need to remind you about the most unjustified, wasteful, moronic and disastrous war in American history, which he strongly advocated and for which the entire world is continuing to pay a heavy toll. This film is actually important.
Finally, Bale is my choice for best lead actor of 2018. It was a tour de force performance.
If this film has any slight problems for me, I didn't like some of its artistic license. Sometimes I wanted it to be more straightforward. But it's a must watch.
With McKay being a famous democrat supporter, do you think he was a big fan of Dick Cheney (played here by Christian Bale)? The movie is definitely of the mind that he's a manipulative force that cares little for humanitarian solutions to terrible problems throughout the world as opposed to a patriotic visionary. But despite that, I was shocked that the movie tried to give Cheney some humanity through his interactions with his daughter Mary (Alison Pill). He also has a couple of tender moments with his wife Lynne (Amy Adams). I read interviews that McKay did where the question was if his movie about Cheney would be poorly received by both sides of the American political aisle. Is it too harsh for conservatives but too light for liberals? I think this is accurate, Cheney is sculpted throughout the movie he starts out as a dolt but slowly grows into his role and develops fangs of his own. It may be too middle ground for some, but I thought they played it almost right. Cheney's ending monologue shows how he really feels about his legacy (its right out of the House of Cards playbook and it was the best moment of the movie for me) but I'll credit McKay for holding back a little bit as opposed to going for the jugular.
If the subject matter doesn't immediately catch your eye, maybe the star-studded cast will. Christian Bale stars as our protagonist Dick Cheney, he's a total chameleon and I honestly forgot I was watching someone performing as Dick Cheney. The awards and accolades he's going to get for this are well deserved. The supporting cast are equally up to the task, Amy Adams does a wonderful job as Lynne. She's a veteran and she is owed just as much credit as her male co-stars for taking what could be a forgettable part and doing a lot with it. I thought Sam Rockwell did a more understated job as George W. Bush than I expected. He plays up Bush's confusion and ignorance, but his portrayal isn't as malicious, and I think he was great. Steve Carell has turned into an elite dramatic actor, he gets the job done here, I think he has the least amount of meat to his part but he's solid. There were lots of recognizable faces in cameo and brief supporting parts, some of my favourites were Jesse Plemons, Alfred Molina, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Naomi Watts and Don McManus.
I'm happy to keep showering this movie with praise but I also didn't completely fall in love with it. The first third to half of the movie can drag, it contains a lot of pertinent information about Dick and Lynne Cheney and while there are moments, there were stretches where I was waiting for it to pick up the pace. Vice has the wild sense of style that I wanted from it, with the cutaways for jokes and visual representations and they brought the laughs. I just wanted more of that in Vice. The trailer for this movie portrays Vice as a straight comedy, this movie also packs a lot of drama (its more dramatic than McKay's previous work the Big Short) and its deeply affecting. But while there are some small concessions to the Cheney family (more than I expected them to) the direction of the slant on Cheney's story is decidedly one way. I went to this advance screening with a conservative friend and it wasn't his cup of tea.
I love the direction that McKay's work is going, I still prefer the Big Short to Vice because it was more comedy than drama and it was such a fresh take on a complicated subject. While he also does a decent job of explaining the intricacies of Cheney's backroom dealings, he never loses sight of the point he's trying to make. Cheney's reign as VP led not only the USA but the free world in the direction we now find ourselves currently sitting in. This is another movie that knows who their audience is and disregards the rest, if you're conservative or a republican voter, don't expect different than what you see in the trailer. This isn't a heroic tale of Cheney, his family or his colleagues and while I was surprised that they gave Cheney some humanity, he's the villain of the piece for sure. I really enjoyed this but I'm firmly at an 8.5/10 and I must round up to a 9/10. If you're in the target demographic for the movie, are interested in seeing a funny but informative look about the George W. Bush administration or want to see what should be a big contender come awards season, Vice is definitely worth showing up to the theatre to see.
McKay's use of a narrating character is sometimes helpful in providing context and continuity, though I think it worked better in The Big Short.
As a bio-pic, Vice does a good job of capturing Cheney's drive for power and his devotion to his family. Complicated people are generally difficult to depict in film, but McKay and the team he assembled gave it an effort worthy of some awards.
I found some of the editing a bit quirky to the point of distraction, but I definitely recommend seeing it. Be sure and stay to the end.
First and foremost, the editing in the film is simply horrendous. I understand that McKay wanted to do this film in an unconventional style, which I normally would support given that the conventional tropes of the biopic genre have grown stale and old. However, the film's juxtaposition of quick cuts is too jarring for even the most seasoned viewers to keep straight. Sometimes the use of quick cuts is necessary (i.e. war footage,) but other times it is questionable (repeated analogous or symbolic references) or completely ridiculous. The film's perceived self-awareness is all over the place, trying to make itself seem more comedic and dumbed down at times, as if the viewer needed to be punished, and its often-bizarre narration is just silly. The acting tends to weirdly alternate between being overdone and undercooked--which is truly puzzling given the film's outstanding cast.
Also, McKay failed to understand this time how to deliver stark political commentary without seeming schlocky or over-the-top (a la Michael Moore and Oliver Stone.) Speaking of Moore and Stone, the film is essentially a love child of both of their filmographies--and that's not always a good thing. The reason is because the film seems to not always be concerned with proper presentation of facts. I'm a lifelong Democrat and no fan of Cheney myself, and while much of the film is likely accurate, some of it probably is not (which the film seems to inadvertently acknowledge as it commences) or presented misleadingly. The bizarre editing also causes grave damage to the possibility that more viewers will see the film as credible. And while the film will certainly infuriate liberals, it not only offers no commentary on solutions on how to best move on from Cheney's (and now Trump's) worldview--it explicitly feels solely like preaching to the choir from beginning to end. While McKay rightly criticizes Fox News in the film for its use of schlocky, highly biased and opinionated information, he fails to understand that sometimes his film feels like a liberal version of a Fox News broadcast rather than a more thorough and potent critique of Cheney. After the outstanding "The Big Short," I'm truly puzzled that this film turned out this bad. 3/10
''Vice'' is an artistic, very unconventional take on the times of Dick Cheney & Bush Junior and it will not be for everyone, but then again, whoever saw Big Short should expect unexpected. For me, this film is crossing the next boundaries in the cinema, a work that provokes deep reflection and I like it very much.
That said, ''Vice'' has it's flaws. I agree with some critics that satire tries too hard and I would like to see a more linear narrative, because Bale gives a truly masterful performance here (Adams also) and I can only imagine what a masterpiece it could have been, if it was more classic perspective.
But as for acting performances - my God, Bale is simply the most brilliant actor of his generation, period. Haters will of course claim the opposite, but they don't have a clue. Let me explain. Mannerism, occasional pauses when speaking, corners of his lips falling to one side, a completely different American accent than Bale usually uses and he nailed it and remember he is an Englishman! Also, Bale's natural voice is waaay deeper. Even the way he is holding his neck !! (producers talked in the interviews how they bought special machine for Bale, he used it to help him hold his neck just like Cheney). But this is not even the most important thing. The most important piece of this role, is mental structure and psychology, behind every gesture and gaze (McKay talks abt it in the interviews, go watch it) as it should be, this is not just an impersonation. Bale is powerful and terrifying figure, a man who once had rules, but starts to walk on corpses and on the other hand, he is still very human, he is a great father and an incredibly romantic husband. Bale showed it all with his acting and still watered it all with absurdity. If you still don't get it, go watch ''Actors on Actors'' series of interviews, with Tom Hanks and Viola Davis, this particular one. In this interview, Hanks and Davis - two brilliant actors with a lot of experience for sure - explain very well, that the real acting brilliance is when you could have better director, better script, yet still, by your acting alone, you make a role so good, and in this case, it's documentary-like, like you are watching real Cheney. They claim, that the most genius actors are those, who still shine & are the best thing even in a bad/not so great movies. And as a film school graduate, who already works a little in the industry, I can confirm, this is so true! Because filmmaking, even more than other fields, is a team effort and great director&screenwriter always helps an actor to achieve greatness in a given role, it is natural that good material in the script / good director strengthens the actor's good sides and helps him to hide his weaknesses. McKay is on his way to be fascinating director, but he still struggles with storytelling, he is no Spielberg or Scorsese, yet Bale, even in movies with flaws, is simply wonderful, each time (he had few cases like this in his career, for example Harsh Times - its a flawed, not the best movie, yet Bale plays a veteran, street rudeboy/gangster type character ridiculously good). And this is exactly why, for me Bale is way above Di Caprio and always will be. Di Caprio has been hiding behind the genius of Scorsese for several years, you can even say that he always did it, because from the beginning he took only projects of great directors (Allen, Cameron, Tarantino if he takes a break from Scorsese), he sits in a comfortable mainstream and doesn't challenge himself as an actor at all, doesn't go beyond a certain framework.
Meanwhile, Bale, often chooses unobvious projects, "doggy" as he himself put it, he said : '' I always like that. Whenever there's a project where everyone's going : Oooooh, it's a bit dodgy, I always like it. If you actually look at it, there tends not to be anything risky at all. Why did I start acting in the first place? I didn't do it to be mediocre or to please everybody all the time.'' - I find it one of the greatest quotes about acting. Bale challenges himself all the time, like when he made Flowers of War, again, most actors sit in their comfort zone - mainstream. Christian did the Flowers of War movie, because he wanted the world to know more about terrible things, which happened in Nankin. Even if he didn't speak any Chinese and the whole crew on the set didn't speak any English, there was only 1 translator - this is real challenge for an actor. Another example is American Psycho - when Leo was afraid of public lynching if he played someone as disgusting as Bateman, and that's why, apparently, he finally gave up this role. Yet Bale turned out to be insanely good in this twisted, dark comedy, he was not only creepy, but funny as hell, I have yet to see Di Caprio playing a comedy and being great at it (and anyone who knows writing/filmmaking knows comedy is the most difficult genre, especially dark comedy). So overall, ''Vice'' is worth it just because of Bale's performance and I hope he will win an Oscar, becuase Cooper's overrated, bland and very much in the background role ain't anything special.
The second reason to see ''Vice'' is of course Amy Adams, she is also simply amazing. Lady Macbeth - like, infernal intelligence and fierceness, and at the same time a great love for a man, for whom, she sacrificed entirely her ambitions. I also hope this is not the last time we see Bale&Adams together, coz they have great chemistry and understanding on screen. It is already their thrid cooperation (after The Fighter, American Hustle) and they both simply outstanding.
In conclusion, I'm a little bit mad at Adam Mackay, because he as director and screenwriter could have done better job, but I give the movie a 9, because of a brilliance of Bale & Adams. Go watch it yourself !
The filmmaker obviously hates Cheney, and does not even try to humanize the man, unlike Oliver Stone did with "W" a few years back. I knew very little about Cheney's life before the vice presidency, and after seeing this film I don't know much more than before, nor do I have a greater understanding of what made this man take the actions he did. We only saw Cheney from the time he was in his late 20s, and never got a sense of his childhood or what may have set the foundation for his later life. It's not so much a biographical film as it is a chaotic film juxtaposed with some other random elements, including the film's irritating narration.
Christian Bale is a talented actor, and unrecognizable through most of the film, so props to the makeup department there. However, he offers little depth to the man and you're left wondering why you should really even care about Cheney, or his legacy, especially if he really is just a total jerk as this film portrays him to be. Sam Rockwell does a good job with his portrayal of George W., but Amy Adams (who I've loved in other movies) is given very little to do as Lynne Cheney, who in reality is a very educated and interesting person in her own right.
Regardless of how you vote, as a film goer, you deserve better than a film with such an obvious agenda against its subject.