Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Christian Bale is unrecognisable in the role, but he’s good at that."

Before The Donald there was Dubya, the youngest and least likely of the Bush babes who ended up to everyone’s surprise and bewilderment as the top jock. How this happened, how it was allowed to happen, is another story. This one is about Dick Cheney, the man no one knew a heck of a lot about until they found out a bit and it was kinda scary. Softly, from the hinterland of Wyoming, after being sacked from Yale and finding a talent for bureaucratic mumbo, he rose like a ghost to take the role of Secretary of Defense in George H W’s team before becoming CEO of Haliburton Co that made a killing in the reconstruction biz after Desert Storm during the Clinton years.

There is something in the air that doesn’t ding-a-ling. It dung-a-rungs and takes its time. Does the title suggest scandal? Are the women goosey loosey and ready to roll? Are they blonde and baby ripe? Steady already!

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Dick C was bland as a plank. He believed in power and the use of it. They say he was the most active VP since Jogger Jim, whoever he was. Dubya plucked him from his dad’s retinue because he seemed to know how things worked and wasn’t doing a whole bunch of stuff at the time and wouldn’t outflank him in the personality stakes.

Writer/actor/director Adam McKay has been here before, or close by, with The Big Short although the film that marked him early as a creative comedy talent was Anchorman which he directed and co-wrote with Will Ferrell.

Vice is not a jokeathon. It’s dealing with war, invasion and America’s role as international bad cop, although there are moments of involuntary humour that break free from the feeling of chaos in the darker recesses of The White House. Choosing Batman to play Cheney might be considered satirical, or a backhanded compliment. Christian Bale is unrecognisable in the role, but he’s good at that, once starving himself rake thin in The Machinist to prove, if such a thing was necessary, his dedication to the artform.

The film skims the skirmishes of the period and touches lightly upon Dubya’s lack of experience - a Trump connection here if you’re in the mood. The acting is fun without being foolish - Steve Carell as Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell as Dubya, Eddie Marsan as Wolfowitz, LisaGay Hamilton as Condoleezza Rice. Outstanding and beyond reproach, or any other ouch, is Amy Adams as Dick’s wife. Lynne, a woman of substance and imagination, married to a man who recognises the power of money and the value of fear, who plays politics with a guarded hand.

Reviewed on: 26 Jan 2019
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The story of Dick Cheney's rise to power and manipulation of US policy, presidents and process.
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Jennie Kermode ****1/2

Director: Adam McKay

Writer: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Eddie Marsan

Year: 2018

Runtime: 132 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


BIFF 2019

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