Vice is an amusing political farce, or a vicious attack on an American patriot. It all depends on your preexisting opinion of Dick Cheney. Christian Bale does an amazing job at capturing the voice, mannerisms and physical appearance of Dick Cheney. However, Vice is always meant to show a caricature of Dick Cheney rather than the real person.
The funniest part of Vice is the “alternate ending”. Dick Cheney does not become Vice President, but instead stays in the private sector, gets himself into fantastic physical condition and travels the world entering Iron Man competitions. Unfortunately, Vice often cannot decide if it wants to be a serious biography or a spoof. It does not work when a film swings back and forth between these two genres.
Steve Carell plays Donald Rumsfeld as a wisecracking, somewhat crude individual. However, Steve Carell never is able to accurately portray the absolute arrogance of Rumsfeld which ended up making enemies of both Republicans and Democrats. It is also odd that Vice did not use the most infamous of all Rumsfeld quotes. In 2002 Donald Rumsfeld was asked how long the Iraq War would last. With complete confidence, Rumsfeld replied,
“I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that”.
Vice follows Dick Cheney’s rise from a drunken college dropout to the man who ended up being the most powerful Vice President in American history. However, we never learn how Cheney was able to accomplish this. There are large gaps in Vice. We see Dick Cheney as a low level nobody in the Nixon White House. The next time Vice shows Cheney, he has already been Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush and head of Halliburton. In a film about Dick Cheney’s rise to power, why did Vice skip the time period in which Cheney actually rose to power?
Sam Rockwell plays President George W. Bush as a complete buffoon, who never notices that he has handed over all his power to Vice President Cheney. Many people have this opinion. An opposing view is that Cheney and Bush were in complete alignment on their political views and that Bush used Cheney to his maximum potential. In any case, President George W. Bush is almost a complete non-entity in Vice, and only appears in 3 scenes.
The most interesting sub-plot in Vice is the battle over gay marriage between Dick Cheney’s daughters. Mary Cheney (played by Alison Pill) is a lesbian married to a woman. Liz Cheney (played by Lily Rabe) took a strong anti-gay marriage stance when running for the House of Representatives. Liz Cheney won her House seat, but lost the love and respect of her sister forever. We wish that this had been more fleshed out and had been made as a serious stand-alone film. Is Liz Cheney really morally against gay marriage, or did she just take this stand because it was what was required to win in Wyoming?
Amy Adams is excellent as Lynne Cheney the wife who demands early in the marriage that Dick turn his life around or she will be gone.
Vice is fun, but it would have been more interesting to see an actual balanced biography rather than a spoof. Perhaps it is still too early for this to happen. Dick Cheney remains such a polarizing figure that it may be decades before any type of neutral treatment is possible.
Thousands of intelligent, ambitious and ruthless people have come to Washington seeking power, but very few of them ever achieve it. Vice never really shows us how Dick Cheney was able to rise to the top while most of the power-seekers remain low level bureaucrats. Like so much in his life, the wizardry that brought Dick Cheney to the pinnacle of power remains a closely guarded secret.
- We rate Vice Three Stars ***
- Be sure to read all our movie reviews.