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Review: Vice (2018)

It was way more convoluted than it needed to be.

I just want to start this review by admitting that I don’t know very much about American politics. If you’re reading this review expecting an in-depth critique that weighs the pros and cons of the Bush administration, you’ve absolutely come to the wrong place. If you’re reading this review expecting me to praise Amy Adams for the goddess she is, compare Christian Bale to a Star Wars (1977 – present) character, and confess my complete annoyance at Adam McKay’s questionable directing techniques, please, pull up a chair. You guys, Vice (2018) was pretty fantastic, but wow, I haven’t rolled my eyes at a movie that much since A Wrinkle in Time (2018).

screen shot 2019-01-04 at 11.50.00 pm
Credit: / Annapurna Pictures

Written and directed by Adam McKay, Vice is a biographical comedy-drama that chronicles Dick Cheney’s historic rise to vice presidency during the time George W. Bush was President of the United States. The movie covers Cheney’s early days as an alcoholic lineworker in Wyoming all the way to the hand he played in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. You’d think given the subject matter that it would be a high-brow, dramatic, political thriller and for the most part, it is. Plot twist, it’s also a satirical dark comedy.

Okay, so it starts and it’s this bizarre, meme-filled montage that feels like the opening to a third-year film student’s documentary. Vice is a movie unlike any other in that it takes the most daring parts of the comedy and drama genres, and mashes them together to create something entirely unheard of. I can honestly say, there is no movie like Vice playing in theatres today. In fact, because of the unique and jarring way the movie was shot and edited, I repeatedly felt like I was watching an independent or experimental film. I can only describe it as Ted (2012) meets The Blair Witch Project (1999). Vice takes the wacky, surreal humour of the former and combines it with the shaky camera and choppy editing of the latter, to create a movie that believes itself to be way funnier and original than it actually is.

screen shot 2019-01-06 at 8.58.48 pm
Credit: / Annapurna Pictures

There are also several “skits” that exist solely to dumb down the mechanics of politics for the audience. Which I’m not complaining about because as I said, I know nothing about the subject. Yet, the way the movie talked down to its audience and presented facts through skits and cartoonish effects, made me feel like I was in school watching an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993 – 1998). Except without the heart, fun, or whimsical bowties. McKay’s unorthodox technique isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, and he deserves major credit for trying something completely out of the box. Who knows? It may even be the next big trend in filmmaking. However, I think in general, but especially with a story like Vice, less is more. If the cutaways, montages, and skits had been toned down, perhaps I wouldn’t have found the whole thing so egregious. The thing is, Cheney’s story is so fascinating and full of substance that it doesn’t need any stylistic flair to muck it up. Removing all the unnecessary editing tricks and jokes would have really taken this movie from B+ to A+.

screen shot 2019-01-06 at 7.24.52 pm
Credit: / Annapurna Pictures

Speaking of A+, my God, the acting in this movie is superb. First of all, in every sense of the term, this is Christian Bale’s movie. Bale is unrecognizable. Thanks in large part to the impeccable makeup job, but also because his turn as Cheney is utterly transformative. I would never dream of crossing this man. Bale is authoritative, commanding, and subtly terrifying. At times he borders on true villainy and plays Cheney with all the intensity of a Sith Lord. You would think that rooting for a Sith Lord is a bad thing, and yet, there were moments in the movie where Bale conveyed such passion, drive, and charisma, that I found myself hoping that he would succeed and climb the political ladder. He’s THAT good. Sidenote, I loved that he thanked his inspiration, Satan, when he accepted his Golden Globe for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for this role. Spot on. By Bale’s side is Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Dick’s wife. This is such an understatement, but Adams is incredible. I mean, when is she not? Consistently pushing Dick to strive for more power, Adams plays Lynne’s cutthroat recklessness and debilitating morals to perfection. Simply put, she’s Lady Macbeth. Tirelessly pulling the strings of Dick’s political career, Lynne is just as devious as her husband, maybe more so, and Adams complete commitment to the role is a revelation to watch. Bale and Adams have nominations for Best Actor and Actress in the bag, and the movie can rely on earning one for Best Makeup and Hairstyling as well.

screen shot 2019-01-06 at 7.12.41 pm
Credit: / Annapurna Pictures

Vice does a solid job of hitting all the highs and lows of Cheney’s infamous professional and personal lives. What I especially loved was the seductive way the Cheney’s were able to justify the means of all the atrocious acts they were involved in. The acting is nothing short of excellent, and McKay’s talent as a screenwriter is undeniable. However, the banana-pants creative choices coupled with the condescending tone make it difficult to stay invested in the story. I know I’ve griped a lot about the kooky editing but you guys, I felt like I was taking a politics class on shrooms. I wholeheartedly trust Adam McKay to write and direct more biopics featuring all-star casts, I just hope that in the future he shows some restraint creatively.

Have you seen Vice? What did you think of the creative choices?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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