For years, writer/ director Adam McKay churned out hugely popular comedies with his good pal Will Ferrell (Anchorman and Step Brothers being among the highlights) and it placed him as one of the finest talents working within the genre. However, McKay’s career reached all new heights when he turned his attention to the corrupt US mortgage market and helmed true story drama The Big Short. The film was universally praised, winning McKay an Oscar in the process for Best Adapted Screenplay. McKay had showcased his range and all eyes were on his follow-up project: Vice. This was the story of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and reshaped the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.
Vice proves that The Big Short was no fluke, a film so impressive and ambitious that it now cements McKay as one of the most exciting filmmakers in the industry. Far from your usual biopic, McKay has created a wild and unusual drama with lots of unexpected humour along the way. Proceedings unfold in non-linear fashion, with Cheney’s life flashing backwards and forwards between his boozy past and his rise from a bureaucratic Washington insider to the most powerful VP in United States history.
The film simply would not work without the terrific work from literally every member of a stellar ensemble cast, particularly Christian Bale who is superb as Dick Cheney. Bale has been known to transform into his characters and Vice is no different, simply unrecognisable in his role under lots of make-up and a major weight gain. Achieving the required mannerisms and body language, he perfects Dick’s dry and serious personality. It’s possibly his finest performance to date, no easy feat in a career which has seen him shine in great movies such as The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Fighter and The Prestige.
The supporting cast are also on fine form, especially Amy Adams who is breath-taking as Dick’s wife Lynne. She’s far more pleasant than her husband, but also just as commanding and passionate about helping her partner make serious changes in America. Steve Carell seamlessly plays the slimy Donald Rumsfeld, the man who Cheney originally looks up too and befriends, whilst Sam Rockwell continues his fine form following his Oscar win for Three Billboards with a fun turn as Mr G.W. Bush.
However, this is a film which isn’t going to please everyone. Whilst I totally embraced the sheer madness of it all and the way it is portrayed, some viewers may be put off by just how oddball and different it is. Nothing here is conventional, from the way the film is narrated to the closing credits appearing in the most peculiar yet hilarious way.
Vice has a very distinctive style to it, with very few characters coming across as even remotely likeable. It can be hard to stomach at times, especially with some of the shocking revelations which we watch unravel. It is slow and talky throughout, but I found it riveting viewing, only losing its way in the middle as you begin to feel its overlong 130 minute run time.
McKay has created another surprising, strange and superior drama, one which avoids cliché and normality at every corner. Anchored by strong performances to elevate his script, this is a picture which may slip under the radar for some, but I highly recommend you check this one out.
Verdict: Vice is a stylish, thrilling and at times shocking biopic with a career best turn from Christian Bale.
Best Moment: The 9/11 segment of the movie was superb