I was able to see this at an advanced screening. What got me excited to go see Vice, along with the stellar trailer, was Adam McKay's involvement as the writer/director. His work on the Big Short was amazing and he's shown a lot of growth as a filmmaker. This was a big subject and with his ability to explain complicated issues, I was sure I was in for something memorable. I left the theatre impressed with the fact that he was able to replicate his style in Vice. He has the unique explanations and jokes down pat and while I wanted even more, the movie kept me entertained throughout with lots of laughs and some gripping drama.
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.