dir-scr Adam McKay
prd Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Kevin J Messick
with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Jesse Plemons, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Tyler Perry, LisaGay Hamilton, Justin Kirk, Eddie Marsan, Bill Camp
release US 25.Dec.18, UK 25.Jan.18
18/US Annapurna 2h12
The second couple: Bale and Adams

carell rockwell plemons
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Vice Writer-director Adam McKay reprises the loose approach to real events that made The Big Short such a hit. The problem is that this biopic about Dick Cheney is dealing with darker events, so it feels smug as it pokes fun at attitudes and actions that lead to the deaths of literally millions of innocent people. Still, it's finely crafted, with a terrific cast going for broke as they play unforgettable real people.

In the early 1960s, Dick (Bale) was a drunken loser, so his wife Lynne (Adams) told him to shape up or ship out. Through sheer ambition, he gets a job alongside Donald Rumsfeld (Carell) in Congress, then in Nixon's White House. After a stint in Congress himself, he is settled into the private sector when George W Bush (Rockwell) asks him to be his vice president. Spotting a chance to grab real power, he returns to politics and makes a series of moves that changed world history. And not for the better.

Cheney arguing that he's doing all of this to keep America safe is troublingly disingenuous. After all, Cheney was responsible for dismantling environmental and banking regulations, organising a system of state-run kidnapping and torture, and rushing into the fraudulent war that gave birth to the Islamic State. Among many other things. It feels somewhat callous to depict him as a quiet man silently consolidating power to become America's backstage emperor. But the cast (often under layers of prosthetics) is excellent.

Bale plays him as a true believer, even if his ideals have nothing to do with party politics. He chooses the Republicans on a whim, then manipulates the public without even a twinge of conscience. The only point where his personal life interferes is when he chooses his gay daughter (Pill) over political advancement. Adams and Carell are also terrific in complex roles, while Plemons is solid as the story's narrator whose connection is revealed later.

Obviously, McKay invents the private dialog, and this is where he makes things both absurd and silly. Some lightness works, but the tone is wrong when it's connected to another bombing or cruelly unjust law. Cheney's achievements should never be celebrated, as they are responsible for things like the financial crash, growing income inequity and the loss of balanced reporting. Yes, the film presents him like a supervillain, asking us to laugh with him as he destroys the world. And it's such a well-made film that it almost works.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.Dec.18

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Vice Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall