When I finished watching Vice, my first thought was: Oh-my-goodness, I wonder if Dick Cheney and his family sued the producers. Later I realized that a lot of Cheney's fundamentalist views, strategies and actions, had come straight out of his autobiography. What's more, many Americans approve of his actions, think of him as a national hero, An American version of Horatio Nelson, perhaps. So much for British naivety! My next Oh-my-goodness moment was when the false final credits came onto the screen. I wondered whether I had dropped off to sleep for a moment, lost some crucial point. Were the Cheneys really spending their golden years breeding golden retrievers? How quaint. But no. VICE is clearly divided into a first and second part, and the false credits mark the division.
The first half shows Dick Cheney growing up in Nebraska, a typical middle class youngster from the midwest, getting drunk, flunking school, being scolded by Lynne his then girlfriend, soon to become wife, accomplice, partner, soulmate. He sobers up, marries Lynne,cuts down on the booze, develops a taste for pastries and an expanding belly. He climbs the political ladder and also becomes immensely rich as CEO of Halliburton.
The second half is triggered by THE PHONE CALL: an invitation to talk about becoming George W.'s running mate, as Vice President of the USA (notoriously a nothing job). Cheney accepts, but on his own terms and becomes the most powerful VP in history. His are the major strategical decisions, it is he who maneuvers the US into invading Iraq. He lays blame where no blame is due, makes and breaks careers, hires and fires at will.
To portray this power game, director Adam McKay (The Big Short, 2015) opts for good, fast dialog (with the exception of a curious bedtime, Shakespearean-type repartee between Mr. and Mrs. Cheney) and a generous injection of humor . Otherwise Cheney would be just too scary. Perhaps the film is a little too long, a little too verbose, takes too long to get going; the second half is faster, more interesting than the first. But as a whole it is entertaining, and gives a idea of what was going on behind the scenes in the United States government, both before and after 9/11, 2001.
Christian Bale as Dick Cheney is as impressive as he is unrecognizable. He grows his character from callow youth, to smoothly accomplished politician answering to some superior officer, to Vice President Richard Cheney, answerable to none. Bale's Cheney is cold, calculating, enigmatic. His face is a mask. He is like a sinister octopus, with tentacles everywhere.
Amy Adams is no less formidable as the formidable Lynne, the perfect American wife always standing by her husband, defending him, applauding him, accompanying him.
The rest of the cast is little short of outstanding: Steve Carell is Donald Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell is George W., Lisa Gay Hamilton is Condoleezza Rice, and so on. All are extraordinary.
The cinematography by Australian Greig Fraser is efficient and gives an idyllic tinge to the scenes of family life with the Cheneys (making Dick Cheney himself an even more sinister character!).
So, VICE for all its shortcomings, its verbosity, its occasional flabbiness, is well worth seeing, both for the outstanding acting and as a social document.