"has a lot of interesting components but it is a narrative mess that wastes a good Nicholas Britell score"
The world is in an horrendous political climate. It is, for want of a better word, a hellscape. With the rich and powerful well and truly in charge, it’s up to the world of media to keep us informed. Especially our cinema as we turn to Adam McKay’s Vice.
Vice revolves around the life and career of Dick Cheney. For those whose extent of knowledge on Cheney doesn’t extend beyond this vince, Cheney found up in charge of some shady political stuff. Following him from his humble beginnings, the story shows how the bureaucratic Washington insider became the puppet-master behind a lot of wars and soon became Vice-President to George W. Bush. The film shows the implications of the dastardly deeds that are going on in the White House. All the while, the film is narrated by affable soldier Kurt.
Adam McKay has had a long history of comedies from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy to Academy Award winning The Big Short. For those who enjoyed the latter, a gimmicky drawl of a movie that uses celebrities to part financial exposition, then Vice is more likely to appeal to you. Certainly, the film is a lot funnier than The Big Short, and a lot darker too. Yet McKay’s over-reliance on his shtick becomes over-bearing. Flitting between news-reel footage to fishing metaphors to restaurant metaphors, Vice derails it’s own narrative and it crashes out early on.
The problem with having so many gimmicks is that it becomes dull really quickly, which has the opposite effect of what the film is aiming for, especially as it twirls off into many different tangents. Vice feels like your drunk friend on a night out trying to tell a story but can no longer keep their place. Burping, slurring, and jabbering on, the end product is a mess of a tale you are no longer interested in. That’s exactly how Vice feels.
Christian Bale does his usual trick of morphing into the despicable lead character and also does well enough to echo some sort of empathy for the guy. To the extent where he feels human and therefore feels more horrendous as a person. As mentioned, Bale doesn’t use his make-up or “fat-suits” as a crutch and implements enough realism to make you intrigued.
In fact, all of the players here are brilliant. Steve Carrell is particularly sadistic as Donald Rumsfeld and Jesse Plemmons makes a great turn as the affable narrator Kurt. Amy Adams, in a year when Hollywood wasn’t filled with other exceptional performances, would’ve been the leader for Best Supporting Actress. Truth is, she is more terrifying than Dick here as Lynne Cheney. She’s an immediate “ball-buster” and her steely reserve helped propel our lead to power, asking the question as to who really was the mastermind from the beginning.
Vice has a lot of interesting components but it is a narrative mess that wastes a good Nicholas Britell score. That being said, there is something ultimately enjoyable about McKay mining the absolute bastardy about people in charge.