Vice is nominated for 8 Oscars at tonight’s 91st Annual Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Tonight is the 91st Annual Academy Awards! And all day today we’ll be bringing you a rundown of each category as well as reviews of the nominated films. Next up, we’re taking a look at Vice.
Director Adam McKay grew to fame with films like 2004’s Anchorman and 2008’s Step Brothers, an assortment of films (usually starring Will Ferrell) that were ridiculous comedies. He found success in taking something slightly mundane–news anchors, NASCAR, stepfamilies–and turning it into a well of comedic material. Then in 2015, McKay began to branch out from his usual settings with the film The Big Short, which tackled the 2008 housing crisis. In doing so, he painted an informative, yet entertaining, portrait of how the US fell apart financially. To some, it was a surprise that such a great film could come from someone that made a career out of ridiculous (and at times, raunchy) comedies. However, McKay has always been able to find the biggest humor in the aspects of life that aren’t exactly funny. That’s what makes Vice, his latest film, work so well.
Vice isn’t a comedy, though it does have some fantastic comedic moments. It’s an open book, no holding back portrait of former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. Christian Bale portrays Cheney, Amy Adams plays his wife, Lynne, Steve Carell does a tremendous job as Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell rounds out the cast as George W. Bush. The film mostly moves forward from Cheney’s college years through the Bush presidency, occasionally jumping back and forth to help juxtapose certain elements of his life. Overall, it’s a straightforward story of Cheney’s life in politics.
What we see here is a man who has found something he’s good at. After getting kicked out of college for too much drinking and partying, Cheney has to rebuild his life and goes back to school with a focus on politics. From there, he meets Rumsfeld and learns how the game is played in Washington and how to manipulate the system to gain power. Cheney understands this world and how to play in it because in the end, it’s not about what your platform truly is–it’s about how you use people and their expectations and desires to satisfy your own goals. And Dick Cheney was a man who always wanted to satisfy his own goals.
There are some brief moments where we do see some humanity in Cheney, but overall, he grows to become the ruthless leader that changed most of the structure of this country. Bale does an amazing job portraying that throughout the entire film. Cheney begins his journey in Washington as a lackey for Rumsfeld, and Bale does a good job of showing how Cheney can be subservient to Rumsfeld but still hold his own. By the end of the film, he’s this powerful, nearly frightening leader who simply stares blankly at people as they talk to him. As an audience member, you know he’s not just staring. He’s processing and trying to determine how to control the situation no matter what variables come into play.
There is no obvious turning point for this change in character. It’s all a slow and gradual change that comes about in such a smooth manner that when Donald Rumsfeld turns to Cheney in the third act and asks if he’s even more ruthless than he was before, you’re right there with him. You’ve seen it all play out, and you know how this path ends (it’s in the title), but it’s still a shock, and you’re left questioning how you missed it along the way. You ask yourself, “How did this happen?” but you know how it happened. You just saw it all play out, and you watched him get away with every little bit of it.
The most damning aspect of all of it is that it’s real. This played out over the course of decades, and we all saw it play it out. We all watched him get away with every bit of it, and we truly did nothing about it.
Vice is currently playing in theaters.