VICE [2018]

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Prefaced with text that Dick Cheney is an extremely secretive man, and that they did ‘their fucking best’, Vice provides an entertaining if not flawed look at the rise of Dick Cheney, presenting the all facts it can and adding fiction where needed. Appropriately described as a man who wielded a supreme amount of power while being out of public scrutiny for the most part, Dick Cheney was a ruthless conservative and his win-at-all-costs mentality is well-depicted in this informative film, where his cold attitude to politics rubs off on his family and eventually the world.

The film begins within the president’s bunker with appropriately frenetic camerawork as the tragic events of 9/11 unfold; a clever if not easy way to hook viewers in from the start. It is soon rewound to Cheney’s younger years. These scenes are brief but important as they establish that he wasn’t aiming for politics as a young man. He indulged in booze, was thrown into the drunk tank more than once and worked as an unskilled labourer. Losing patience, his wife Lynne urges him to do something meaningful with his life, something that will pay the bills, as he currently works a risky job for little pay and Lynne is wondering if she is with the right man.

Unfortunately, and importantly, we don’t see what sparks his interest in politics other than his need to provide for his family. It is a jarring transition from the previous sequences, as he sits in a giant hall with fellow young hopefuls who are in a sense competing to become an intern within the White House. Cheney hears economic adviser to the president Donald Rumsfeld give a short speech, likes what he hears, and immediately aspires to become a politician like him despite his ignorance at the time regarding politics. He wins the opportunity to work as an intern, under Rumsfeld himself.

It doesn’t take long for Rumsfeld to see the potential in young Cheney, whose attitude seems perfect for high-stakes politics, where the right thing to do often doesn’t correlate with what would be morally right. Rumsfeld shows him what is what around the White House and Cheney begins to realise the true extent of the power that can be wielded, and more importantly, what he could do with it.

After Nixon resigns from the presidency amidst the Watergate fiasco, the film runs through the different positions Cheney held as he slowly moves up the ladder towards presidency, but doesn’t explain the relevance. Of course he eventually becomes Vice President as he decides Bush is trying to impress his father and landed the job due to his family more than his brains. As de facto leader then, he lays out the cards as to what exactly will happen next. These scenes arguably could have been trimmed as not all the information relayed is of importance to Cheney’s rise and is a little too detailed considering this.

When drafting the Patriot act (oddly never referred to by name), a scene is presented in a restaurant where the forever likeable Alfred Molina plays a friendly waiter asking the dinner guests (Cheney, Rumsfeld etc) what important cogs they would like to be a part of the act, as if they are specials on a menu. That everything discussed here is incredibly important to not just the film, but the US today, causes the scene to feel out of place, to put it lightly. It may seem like a creative idea, perhaps it is, but it is pointless in this situation as it sucks away the atmosphere of their plotting within the White House by replacing it with a gimmicky scene. And this isn’t the only gimmick to be found. One extreme example is somewhere around the middle of the film and while it may have felt original and amusing to McKay, it comes off as thoroughly moronic and laughable in all the wrong ways. The same can be said for an idiotic mid-credits scene, so terrible, so cringe-worthy that you will want to hit someone.

Amidst the onslaught of information, political information at that, the attempted comedic moments drag the film down, as the way they are presented don’t work within a story such as this. It feels as if McKay is trying far too hard to insert humour with incredibly random execution, as intended humourous moments catch the viewer off guard and subsequently strip important scenes of their power. They are all randomly placed and unexpected, and rarely if ever fit within the tone of the scene.

The major problems with Vice are not only these failed attempts at humour, it is the editing paired with constant over-emphasis of metaphors. The film often cuts to an entirely new shot to illustrate a metaphor that has just been laid out, as if the audience is deaf and/or stupid. One example of this is when Cheney’s elaborate plans are at one point aptly described as building a delicate stack of cups and saucers. The film then cuts to a literal stack of cups and saucers for a second or two, before cutting back to the original scene. Why McKay felt these condescending shots as a necessity is a good question. One in particular is truly atrocious. Other minor quibbles with the script are spread throughout, many coming from his wife, but this is surely hard to avoid when making a film based on a true story.

On the positive side of things, Bale’s portrayal of Cheney is fantastic (though it must be said that half the credit must go to the make-up department) and certainly not flattering. However, given his actions while in the White House, it must take a sociopath to view Cheney in any sort of positive light. The film is obviously and intentionally biased, depicting Cheney as a cold, power-hungry and uncaring man, apart from his family. There are no attempts to be objective here: the film presents the facts, and the facts tell a story of a bad person.

When winning the Golden Globe award, Christian Bale thanked Satan for inspiration, and who could argue?

As mentioned, Bale’s illustration of Chaney is very well realised, though while Chaney does have a throaty voice, it certainly isn’t as deep as the Batman-like voice Bale uses for most of the film. It must be said though that it does add to the ominous nature that gradually envelops the character. The gradual aging of Cheney, both by him gaining wait and later the make up department, is also extremely well played by Bale as the man becomes increasingly ruthless.

Steve Carrell again shows his dramatic chops and is forever believable as Rumsfeld, Cheney’s first advisor, his friend, and eventually one of his partners in crime. His comic background also shines through as he constantly makes for an interesting character with a big personality and quirky sense of humour. The rest of the cast are terrific, especially Sam Rockwell as a blind George W. Bush who doesn’t blink when Cheney refers to Military and Foreign Policy as ‘mundane’, as well as Amy Adams as Cheney’s wife who herself develops a political attitude that almost competes with her husband’s. She is certainly convincing in this regard.


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No matter your political beliefs, this is an enjoyable despite its many missteps. Despite this, it must be seen despite the imperfections, if only for the fun and incredibly accurate depiction of a Vice President who ended his career with the lowest approvement poll level in US history at 13%. Christian Bale’s reverse-Machinist effort is something to behold, and the story of this despicable man is one that needed to be told. However, it is a shame that a potentially fantastic movie is rendered simply average by poorly placed use of comedy, gimmicks, and the unneeded, often condescending ADD-riddled editing.

Half a six pack, wasted potential at its most obvious.

3/6

18 Comments on “VICE [2018]

  1. Ypu make a lot of really good observations here. The comedic trickery and look-at-me! fancy-pants editing stuff is SOO distracting. I admit I actually laughed at the fake end credits and the Alfred Molina scene. The former scene was pretty ridiculous in the end, as if we didn’t know by that time what Adam McKay’s feelings are about Dick Cheney. The latter scene, though, I personally thought was quite clever. It was a good way of describing the kind of power the guy had amassed at that point and explained some industry crap to us average Joes while being darkly funny. But to your point, it was also a distraction because again, at least for me, you’re sitting there figuring out how the scene was shot and created rather than the actual content of it.

    I think a 3/6 is damn fair. I’ll probably be giving this something similar. Iiffff i can actually do the writing of it! Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehehe. Thanks for the kind words mate! I’m checking out your end of year posts right now actually. Though the mentioning of quiet place had me wincing 😛 I thought it was horrid, but I’m gonna download it to watch again. See if I think any different when I’m by myself with my 5k worth home theatre set up 😛

      I can see what you mean about the dinner scene. I agree it was darkly funny, but for me it just ripped me out of the atmosphere, and again, felt like just another gimmick, like that idiotic crap in the middle (I’m sure you know what I’m talkin about there), the narrator’s attachment to the film, the end credits scene. It was just too much for me.

      I wish it was a serious drama instead of trying to be funny. I also wish they mentioned what is really happening with Halliburton (Cheney is still getting kickbacks in the forms of ‘commissions’, among other BS legal loopholes) which add up to millions. At least it is alluded to in the credits, but the ONE scene where they discuss the stupidly high budget of Halliburton…. jeez it was over fast. I guess they coulda got in legal trouble if they really went into the Halliburton stuff… but, it was a very big reason he wanted to invade.

      Heh, and yeah I’ve gotten into this (bad?) habit of putting myself in the directors chair when watching flicks, analysing the technical side of things too much over the content. I guess its cos I’m dying to make a movie and have plans to move to Sydney or Melbourne temporarily to study film, cos it aint available in this shithole of a city! I’m also writing a screenplay based on my short story, dunno if you ever read it. I’ve downloaded a ton of ‘how to write a screenplay’ books hehe 😛

      Sorry for that essay mate. We must chat more often 🙂

      Like

  2. Considering the current political climate, its interesting that Adam McKay is doing a Dick Cheney movie rather than something about the Trump administration (the recent transpirings about Michael Cohen would have certainly made a compelling film). If I recall, McKay said that he felt that Trump was nowhere near as bad as Cheney, and was critical that the Bush administration is now getting a pass from most simply because of the current president.

    I do enjoy McKay’s comic style, and from what I’ve seen from the trailers, Christian Bale does make a convincing Cheney. It’s too bad this doesn’t live up to its potential, though I suspect I will watch it eventually. Nice review Jordan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you enjoy his comic style then its worth it for sure. But there were just too many gimmicks for me.

      As bad as Trump is, I do agree Cheney is worse. And the movie doesn’t even go into how Cheney is still getting commissions and other legal loopholes to get kickbacks from Halliburton that add up to miiilions.

      I agree tho that a story on Cohen would have been interesting for sure.

      Oh, and Bale is indeed fantastic. But the make up team deserve just as much credit!

      Liked by 1 person

    • the cast is awesome. But just get prepared for a ton of silly gimmicks to try and be funny or original, I’m not sure of the intent. You’ll notice it right away with the narrator who I actually didn’t write about.

      I really wish I was just a straight serious drama cos it really was an interesting time in politics in the US no fuckin doubt, and Cheney is the devil. Still getting kickbacks for Halliburton the evil fuck, Haha he seems even more evil when Bale goes overboard with the Batman deep voice. He’s great, no doubt, but I think half of that is the make up team. At least for the later years where he was grey.

      Sorry I’m rambling, but… I dunno, prepare to be annoyed at times, its kinda stop start at times

      But Carrell tho? Best in the movie I reckon having watched it a few times now. His guy had a personality and he really brought it too life.

      Ahhh, if only I could do reviews after seeing it at the cinema and then off the net a few times haha! I suppose I could but I hate the wait. Suspiria just hit the net, I’m so psyched to see it again. I wrote half a review and then went back to it two days later and couldn’t remember shit! ‘

      Ahh shit I’ll shut up now. Ha, not even drunk, just in a writing mood. Check out my latest review man, let me know if you think its too long

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! Ramble away sir! The net has been throwing up a couple of delights recently. I’m not sure about Suspiria but I’ll give it a go. I haven’t seen the original so I’ll be going in totally blind.

        Liked by 1 person

      • its not a remake in any sense. Director calls it a homage. To me its a reimagining of the core concepts that are still there. Thats it, the way the plot starts. and the nature of the dance company. Everything else is great and weird and only had one element I didn’t like. Hope you see it and like it broski

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I have it waiting already but My list and options are so fucking long, man. I don’t know where to start. Vice and Suspiria are up there to get moving on fairly quickly though. I’m desperate to finalise my top ten list before it’s too late.

        Liked by 1 person

      • yeah me too I have a ton of movies to watch for 20008, inc lars von triers new one The House That Jack Built, Mandy (need to watch it sober as it is sooo made for teripping I swear), then there is Sorry to Bother You, Green Book, The Mule, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (I love Gilliam), They Shall not Grow Old, need to rewatch the new Suspiria and same with American Animals, which I loved but didn’t write about quickly enough and then it was gone from my memory.

        There is also You Were Never Really There with Joaquin Phoenix. That one might be at the top for me, its one you just gotta watch more than once, much like the new Suspiria.

        Ha at this rate I’ll have a top ten by April!

        Like

  3. Fine, fine review. I gotta say I pretty much hated this thing. When I finished my review I begin the rethink things. I wondered if I were being to harsh. But then as I thought about it more and remember how much I wanted it to be over, I felt pretty good with my position. For me it was such an exhausting movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I’m with you, it was only the acting and the interest of the story that kept my attention. But alllllllll those gimmicks? I mean, how many do you think? Narrator, dumb editing, the stupid fake bit in the middle (don’t wanna spoil the shittiness for anyone for some reason), the fuckin restaurant scene, the god awful mid credits scene that was one of the worst things I have ever seen? I need to rebookmark you cos I lost all of em after i took my PC to the IT place

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is McKay’s style, I don’t know if you saw The Big Short, I loved that one. Vice wasn’t that good but the style, editing and humor all worked for me, if anything I wish it had more funny moment, that shot in the face situation begged for more humor. I thought Cheney simply chose that profession because he wanted to have power, for a lot of people this is all it takes

    Liked by 1 person

    • the guy he shot was weirdly rushed I agree. And everyone has different tastes in humour no doubt, I’m glad it clicked for you tho! The cuts to a literal example of a metaphor though really annoyed me, it just seemed unneeded

      Like

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