Film Review: Vice

We’re off to see the Wizard, the awful Wizard of who knows what…

Generally, after attending screenings, writers are asked to supply brief views on the film they have just seen.

This can be difficult if the film didn’t have you running to the nearest 24 hour megaphone pop up shop for a swift purchase, then asking Siri for the highest local vantage point to scream from, without using any red flag words that have GCHQ banging on your neighbours door in the middle of the morning, as they got your address mixed up. I’m not sure what any of that is about, but I definitely blame Dick Cheney, true to form, his fingerprints aren’t all over it.

My shell-shocked review musings to the delightful PR squealed, yelped, whimpered and tripped along the lines of ‘it’s like laughing whilst being shot’. For the record, I’ve never been shot (I did stab myself once in the arse, that resulted in a single no local anesthetic stitch, but that’s for another Rambo movie review), but I have laughed before, and despite the content of Vice being like a real-life horror movie that once it sinks in is 100% FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) in the slow boiling world around us with chef Cheney at the controls, I laughed a great deal. But then again my favourite bubble bath is Strawberry Gallows Humour.

Vice is the story of the rise of one Dick Cheney from the bowls Hell to the actual earthly gutters (we’d ALL be so much better off if he’d stayed there) to the highest position of office as the 43rd President in the land of the good auld USA. Technically speaking he wasn’t the actual President, and had the position of Vice President, but there’s zero doubt he was in charge, have you ever seen George W Bush talk?

The story spans about 50 years, so is somewhat expansive and roadkill fascinating in where it has to go, but given that director/writer Adam McKay was able to clearly explain what happened in the Gordian Knot global financial crisis in his previous movie The Big Short (2015), his sword of choice is razor sharp comedy, and once again, it works to phenomenal effect, though if it didn’t, the entire cinema would be wailing for hours.

Unlike The Big Short where there were Everest’s of information hidden amongst the Everest’s of information, it seems that Cheney doesn’t have any daily Dear Diary, probably as it’s difficult to write with hooves and bottles of the blood of sacrificial virgins awkward to come by, though if anyone could have arranged a regular supply… Oh, having zero evidence of ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING might have been an element too.

Suffice to say, for someone that has been in public office for such a long time, there’s very little information to go on. The film is admirably very upfront about this and uses it to great comic effect in that what they are presenting is probably what happened, but the reality was surely much worse, McKay and co are just being good parents to us by hiding the monsters.

Considering there could be a 20 hour Netflix series about what is covered in this movie, it is quite fantastic how much they fit in, but in a balanced way that it’s not preachy or overbearing. They shrewdly lay the facts before us and we are left to follow our own moral compass and we immediately start googling for pitchfork deliveries, and ripping up our organ donor cards (that will make sense when you’ve seen the movie).
From the director that made the farce about reporting/journalism (Anchorman, 2004), McKay has evolved this astute skill to use farce to present some of the best journalism around. The Big Short is a stunning piece of reporting on any level, and Vice follows up close behind. The only reason it probably isn’t on par is that out of pure necessity of content, it’s a dark, dark movie. It’s a laugh out loud comedy of course, but as mentioned above, when it sinks in what these folk were (& still are) up to, and directly paved the way for, it’s proper evil stuff indeed, but hey, ye gotta laugh.

Then, of course, we have the performances, Christian Bale completely unrecognisable as Christian Bale and just stunning as the 100% spawn of Satan (take a bow oh wondrous makeup folk). Bale is known and rightly acknowledged for his commitment to a character, literally and figuratively metamorphosing into the role, and his does so with cakes and abundance here, he really is outstanding. It took me ages to recognise (I try to steer clear of overkill of information on films prior to seeing them) one of my all time favourite actors Amy Adams as Cheney’s wife Lynne, again just fantastic. And we still haven’t mentioned Sam Rockwell as George W Bush (I have NEVER noticed how much Sam looks like George) which is a beautiful thing of bewilderment, and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, again, incredible.

To be fair every single person in the movie is brilliant, clearly relishing saying the words of some of the nastiest bastards that ever roamed the earth, thankfully for make-believe. 

There are wonderful touches of visual comedy glee and playfulness, a laser-guided script (in this case zero collateral damage) that somehow tickles and punches at the same time. In fact the moment that resonated the most for me was an early exchange between a younger Cheney as he starts working in the White House where he asks Romsfeld a question about beliefs. The reply is deep and honest hilarity, that despite it being a joke, is probably the darkest moment in the movie, and truly terrifying in it’s implications.
I’ve deliberately steered away from the story details, as clearly you should really see this movie, and besides, I don’t want to make you cry. It’s a fantastic piece of Brother’s Grimm storytelling that will hopefully warn the kids of future generations about the dark demons that hide in suits.
Oh! There’s also the moment where McKay actually had me feeling sorry for Cheney as he’s not close enough to death’s door, now that is masterful movie directing that deserves its 8 Oscar nominations.

9/10 Vice is in cinemas now, Dick Cheney is up to who knows what. 

Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.