Nominated for eight Oscars this week including Best Picture, Adam McKay’s Vicemore than merits its success. An exhilarating political comedy-drama about the rise of Dick Cheney, featuring yet another tour-de-force turn from the chameleonic Christian Bale, it’s cast in the same mould as McKay’s 2015 tale about the global financial meltdown, The Big Short. Yet whilst that covered a short time-span, this narrates across four decades of American politics after Cheney arrives in Washington during the Nixon era.
With spouse Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) by his side – she is fully responsible for driving him on in his early years, when he was a Yale drop-out with a drinking problem – Cheney reaches his zenith when George W. Bush becomes president. Played astutely by Sam Rockwell, Bush entices Cheney to become his Vice President, traditionally a figurehead role that carried no weight. Cheney accepts the offer, but as McKay’s erudite and oft-hilarious script shows, he has no intention of being a puppet with no power.
This comes to a head in the wake of the terror attacks of 9/11. The immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center strikes, with the White House staff all bustled into a secure room, is unsettling, but it’s truly chilling with Cheney gets to work, instrumental in guiding America towards the war in Iraq to bring down Saddam Hussein. It shows a man to whom power has become a dangerous drug, so much so that when his daughter Liz runs for Senate, he consents to her opposing same-sex marriage – this despite the fact his other daughter Mary has been married to a woman since 1992.
McKay casts Vicesuperbly, from Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld to Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, but it’s Bale who will take the plaudits. His physical transformation into Cheney is something truly to behold, every bit as good as his work on The Machinistand American Hustle. He is the sun around which the rest of the cast orbit, and he never misses a beat. Aided by a complex but comprehensive script, that truly pulls back the curtain on Capitol Hill, Viceemerges as one of the best movies of the year.
Viceopens on 25 January. For more details, click here.
1. Stills from Vice.