Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Eddie Marsan, Justin Kirk, LisaGay Hamilton, Bill Camp, Don McManus, Lily Rabe, Shea Whigham, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Tyler Perry
Written by: Adam McKay
Directed by: Adam McKay
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images
Running Time: 132
Date: 12/25/2018

Vice (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cheney of Fools

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A veteran in comedy, writer/director Adam McKay brings a strong irreverence, and some quirky humor, to this biopic, yet it can't disguise its sheer outrage; its laughs come through openmouthed dismay.

In Vice, young Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) is a hard drinker and a bar brawler; he gets thrown out of Yale and winds up in jail for drunk driving. His girlfriend Lynne (Amy Adams) gives him an ultimatum, and he agrees to straighten out. He becomes a congressional intern, begins working with Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), and holds several positions in the White House, eventually losing his job when Jimmy Carter is elected president.

Years later, he is approached by George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and asked to be his running mate. He reluctantly agrees, but only after he convinces Bush to let him take on some of the larger, "duller" responsibilities of the office of the President. But when the 9/11 attacks occur, Cheney senses an opportunity to turn his position into one of enormous power, forever changing the way politics are played.

With Vice, McKay uses a variety of unexpected tools, including a surprising choice for a narrator, as well as offbeat little inserts and alternate realities (the movie has a funny false ending halfway through). An opening crawl claims that the movie is a true story, but since Cheney was so secretive, they did the best they could. These touches help get the story down more easily, and certainly the tone often teeters toward satirical, which feels almost like vindication. But certain audiences will still feel helplessly furious.

As with his previous movie The Big Short, McKay sets aside the clean, colorful look of his previous comedies (including the brilliant, underrated Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) and goes for a washed-out, edgy look, with frequent use of hand-held cameras.

The enormous canvas requires many helping hands, and viewers will find amazing people in the smallest of roles. In bigger roles, Adams, Carell, and Rockwell do admirable work, but their roles are sidelined and not as fully fleshed out as the centerpiece. In the role of Cheney, Bale more than disappears. He hides; it's a not particularly personal performance, but it's skillful, and highly effective. All in all, Vice feels like a much-needed, cleansing primal scream at politics.

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