Writer/director Adam McKay managed to make sub-prime mortgages and the stock market interesting in his film The Big Short. With Vice, I was expecting to see a quality film from McKay, but he has exceeded my expectations in both subject matter and creativity.
Vice is about Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), the man who, as George W. Bush’s vice president, managed to abuse power and exert his political influence quietly in the background to achieve his goals at any cost, regardless of what President Bush and his team wanted.
Vice builds the story around Cheney’s rise to power within the American political system and the people, such as Donald Rumsfeld, who affected and influenced his ability to wield power.
One of the key people in Cheney’s life was his wife Lynne, whose influence was substantial and undeviating. Amy Adams is superb in the role. Bale is formidable as Cheney, although I had to overcome my initial reaction to his Dick Cheney sounding almost identical to his Batman voice in The Dark Knight Rises.
The stylistic elements McKay employs in building the film, at times, channel techniques used in films such as Sunset Boulevard and the style of Wes Anderson.
Vice addresses and challenges our preconceptions about Cheney. It is full of subtle symbolic references. The scenes of Cheney fly fishing and a number of medical procedures are symbols of Cheney’s determination and heartlessness.
By the way, don’t leave when the credits roll (as if anyone would or should). There’s a fun follow-up scene early in the credits. Plus, look closely at the fly-fishing lures in the credits; I’ll say no more.
Vice is neither a documentary nor a drama. It is the film equivalent of In Cold Blood, what Truman Capote called his non-fiction novel. Vice is a non-fiction drama.
Vice, too, is about actual people and actual events seen through the creative interpretive eyes of Adam McKay and producers Brad Pitt and Will Ferrell.
Considering Vice is about such high-profile people, and events in recent history, such as the Iraq War and the rise of ISIS, the details of which we know to varying degrees, it is nonetheless engaging, surprising and sharp.
The more I continue to consider the flow and creative structure of Vice, days after seeing it, the more impressed I am with the film. It reveals in an imaginative manner and extends beyond the wheeling and dealing within the American political system to get to the heart of what it means to have and abuse power, and the impact those decisions have on the lives of people across the world.