Review: Vice (2019)

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Our latest jaunt to the cinema was for a mystery movie screening so we had no idea what was coming when the lights dimmed. If you every have the chance to go to a mystery screening, do it. It’s the perfect chance to broaden your horizons and experience something you may normally overlook.

This particular screening was for Vice, a biographical comedy about former Vice President Dick Cheney. You will be forgiven for not knowing who Cheney is, as the films states, he is one of the most secretive men in Washington. However, by the end of the film, not only will you know his name but you will be astounded by the way he shaped the world as we know it today.

Talk about a star-studded cast.

The film starts with a shot of a young Dick Cheney getting pulled over for drunk driving in 1963, then quickly transitions to the presidential bunker slap-bang in the middle of the events of September 11th 2001, and Cheney authorising the shooting down of “any aircraft deemed a threat… on presidential authority”. Leading us all to wonder; ‘How did one man get so much power?’ and more importantly, ‘Is it legal?

The story then follows a more linear route as it details Cheney’s journey from drunken dead-beat, to congressional intern, to one of the most powerful men in the world, with a career spanning decades. The beauty of this film is that it is multi-generational, whether you are a Baby Boomer or a Gen-X’er, there are events depicted that you will have experienced and can relate to, in some form or another.

One of the things I particularly loved about this film is that it did not follow just one particular style. The more conventional cinematic style was interspersed with a bombardment of dramatic images, typical with those usually depicted in brainwashing scenes. Combine this with a narrator expertly used for dramatic effect and the breaking of the fourth wall, and you have a film that succeeds in ensuring that the viewing makes you as uncomfortable as the decisions and actions of the people you are watching.

The performances of the central cast were outstanding. Christian Bale’s masterful performance is not only supported but matched by that provided by Amy Adams, who I feel, is on her way to her sixth Oscar nomination. I know that the film is about Dick Cheney but I would’ve loved to have seen more of Sam Rockwell’s turn as President George W. Bush. Rockwell is not someone that I could’ve ever imagined playing a US president but he absolutely smashed it. Unfortunately, I don’t think we saw enough of him in the film to merit a Supporting Actor Oscar but that does nothing to diminish the power of his performance.

Sam Rockwell was surprisingly convincing as President George W. Bush

Being British and knowing very little about American politics, I cannot say whether Vice plays better too one side or the other, however I did get the impression that McKay played his audience very well. There is a lot of fishing imagery within this movie, with a particularly memorable scene involving Cheney and George W. Bush. But the impression I got, and I have no idea whether this was intentional or not, is that the fish was representative of the audience. Whether you are a Liberal or Conservative, a conspiracy theorist or undecided, there will be some strong reactions to this film and that means that McKay has done his job well. He has hooked you and reeled you in.

Another thing, this film does particularly well is show you just how much one action can change the entire landscape of life as we know it. Now, I know that sounds a little melodramatic but the development of Zarqawi’s story leads to the birth of ISIS, the terror of the lives we are living today.

Now I could wax lyrical about this film all day, there is so much to talk about, but this is something you need to experience for yourselves, and believe me, it is an experience. We are just over two weeks into 2019 but I think it will be pretty safe to say that this will still be in my top ten movies come the end of December.

As always, one mans junk is another man’s treasure, so go and see this film for yourselves and make up your own mind.

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