Vice


2018

Vice (2018)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: Vice takes scattershot aim at its targets, but writer-director Adam McKay hits some satisfying bullseyes -- and Christian Bale's transformation is a sight to behold.

AUDIENCE SCORE


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VICE explores the epic story about how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world as Vice-President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

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Cast

Christian Bale
as Dick Cheney
Amy Adams
as Lynne Cheney
Steve Carell
as Donald Rumsfeld
Sam Rockwell
as George W. Bush
Tyler Perry
as Colin Powell
Alison Pill
as Mary Cheney
Lily Rabe
as Liz Cheney
Eddie Marsan
as Paul Wolfowitz
Justin Kirk
as Scooter Libby
LisaGay Hamilton
as Condoleezza Rice
Shea Whigham
as Wayne Vincent
Bill Camp
as Gerald Ford
Fay Masterson
as Edna Vincent
Kirk Bovill
as Henry Kissinger
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News & Interviews for Vice

Critic Reviews for Vice

All Critics (258) | Top Critics (39)

It's been a long time since I enjoyed a movie as much as Adam McKay's Vice while also fully understanding why so many people don't like it. [It's a] stylized, grimly funny Dick Cheney biopic.

Jan 4, 2019 | Full Review…

In theory, there's no reason why this approach shouldn't work -- if the jokes were better and the black comedy was blacker. But McKay isn't really interested in Cheney as anything but a target.

Jan 4, 2019 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

You cannot simply sit and absorb this movie. Love it or hate it, you are one of its characters.

Dec 27, 2018 | Full Review…

In Adam McKay's free-ranging, tone-shifting, darkly funny, super-meta, hit-and-miss, absurdist biopic Vice, Bale nails it as the resilient, backstabbing, front-stabbing, ruthlessly ambitious Cheney.

Dec 26, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Exhilarating but ultimately off-putting... The gleefully scattershot style that gave so much pleasure in The Big Short ill-befits the somber subject of Vice.

Dec 26, 2018 | Full Review…

From the man who brought us "The Big Short" comes "Vice," a movie a lot like "The Big Short" that comes up a little short.

Dec 26, 2018 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Vice

Doing what is right is boring. Following the rules is boring. Doing what is wrong is entertaining. Bending and breaking the rules is amusing. Movies should not be made about politicians, but given most politicians don't do the right thing rather often and tend to break and bend the rules to fit their own needs and agenda as frequently as they see fit it is no surprise there are plenty of television shows and movies based around and on political figures. There is a brief scene in Adam McKay's latest film, Vice, based around the life of Vice President Dick Cheney where he is teaching one of his daughter's how to fish and she asks if the trick of baiting the fish with a live worm is right or wrong-you know, morally. Cheney replies that, "It's not right or wrong, it's just fishing." His daughter admits to not wanting to hurt the worm, but her father summarizes his justification for the sport by stating, "You find out what they want and you use it to catch them. The family gets to eat." It is with this perspective that Cheney seemed to approach his political career as well-it also exemplifies how every single line and aspect of McKay's film is integral to the portrait the writer and filmmaker is painting. "It's not right or wrong, it's just what needs to be done." What McKay is really exploring through Vice though, is this idea of how does a man go on to become who he is? The film describes life as being a series of events that contain certain moments that are so delicate, that they are akin to a stack of teacups with a saucer in between each where-at any moment-one could fall in any direction and change the course of the future forever. Unfortunately, there's no way to know the future and which way things will fall, but while McKay is keen to note that Cheney more or less fell into the roles he would eventually allow to define the purpose of his life largely due to the involvement of his wife, what he seems particularly interested in dissecting is how Cheney came to view the job of serving the country and how he interpreted that responsibility as it becomes very clear that Cheney and his staff were experts at interpreting things strictly in the way they wanted and in what would benefit their cause best. What McKay is truly attempting to do is bring about a case concerning how Cheney had his hands in so many pies, either for reasons of his own agenda or for what he truly thought was best for the country (it's hard to tell from one issue to the next), and that the result of these meddling's effectively changed the course of history. McKay wants the viewer to not only read that tagline that could easily be misconstrued as a piece of hyperbole and understand it, but to grasp it and take to heart; to truly understand the ramifications of this single man's actions in determining the fate of millions upon millions of other people's lives. read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com

Philip Price
Philip Price

Super Reviewer

½

If Oscar-winning funnyman Adam McKay can take the arcane, convoluted world of finance and spin it into one of the most entertaining, accessible, and enraging films of that year, then just imagine what he could do with the life of Dick Cheney? We follow Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) from his early days as a college washout, to Washington intern to Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), to youngest chief of staff in a White House administration, to Wyoming Congressman, and eventually Vice President to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) where Cheney redefined the VP role as a defacto second president. This is the story of his 60 years shaping the annuls of political power. If you have one reason to watch Vice, it's the staggering performance by Bale (Hostiles). As is custom, the man completely transforms himself into his subject, gaining weight, building muscle in his neck to simulate the Cheney shoulder hunch, and going unrecognizable in startling older age makeup. He doesn't just look the spitting image of Dick Cheney but he sounds like him too, exhibiting his cadences and mannerisms, and fully inhabiting the man every second he's onscreen. It's a compelling, captivating turn that ranks up there with Bale's best. He's beyond great but strangely nobody else is. Amy Adams (Arrival) plays Lynne Cheney, Dick's wife and shrewd political partner, and her worst acting moment is her introductory scene where she lays into the young Cheney. It's like an audition where the actor is hitting the wrong notes too strongly. Adams regains herself as the film carries on but never has a standout scene. Nobody else other than Bale is given the material to stand out. Rockwell (Three Billboards) and Carell (Beautiful Boy) are enjoyable and aided by impressive makeup, especially old Rumsfeld, but they're given one note to play. Their roles become more impression than performance and both men drop out of the movie for long periods of time. The next best actor might by Tyler Perry (Gone Girl) as Colin Powell, and maybe that's because Perry is used to brokering nonsense with his own array of nonsensical characters. He's already the weary adult. The meta interludes and fourth wall breaks that helped The Big Short succeed conversely are part of the problem with Vice. Most Americans know a decent amount about the Iraq War and its documented fallout, so there's less need to have celebrities interject and explain complex scenarios and institutions (the absence of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath will always be felt). The narration by Jesse Plemons (Game Night) doesn't feel necessary, and his ordinary identity becomes a guessing game for most of the film, trying to link him with Cheney. I was thinking he would be an Iraq War soldier and get killed later on, that way establishing a stand-in for the thousands of men and women who are no longer walking this Earth as a direct result of Cheney's misguided action. Nope. When his identity is finally revealed you'll go, "Oh," and that's it. Because he wasn't really a character, he was a narrative device and one that didn't stand for anything larger. The visual metaphors can also be very, very obvious. There are consistent cuts to Cheney fly-fishing in a river, meant to evoke him luring others into his desired machinations. Even the end credits feature fly-fishing imagery, in case you had forgotten about this enduring metaphor. The conclusion literally involves a heart being removed and the sequence cut along a more figurative betrayal, and you can feel McKay vigorously pointing at the screen and yelling, "See, it's because he's heartless, get it? Do you get it?" We get it. The documentary-style and comedic techniques that allowed The Big Short to be as entertaining and accessible, and one of the best films of 2015, are paradoxically the things that seem at odds with Vice. The meta breaks are meant to provide a degree of comedy to the picture, which is generally absent comedy otherwise, unless you count the rise of Cheney's reign as the darkest of comedies. I suppose Cheney's nonchalant recognition of his heart attacks (he's had five) could be a potential comedic lifeline if you're being generous. One second we're told people don't speak in Shakespearean soliloquies in real life, and the next second the Cheneys are talking in Shakespearean verse. When it looks like the Cheneys will drop out of public office to spare their gay daughter Mary (Alison Pill) the inevitable storm of harassment, the movie has a fake-out end credit sequence to sum up their hypothetical lives. To demonstrate Cheney's knack for making the most ridiculous statement sound statesmen, he recommends that the Oval Office team put miniature beards on a part of their anatomy and perform an adult puppet show, which draws solemn nods of approval from the others. It's a joke that feels too glib, like the intended point is being lost by the lewd nature of the comedic aside. The only meta aspect that feels earned is the final one, where Cheney turns to the camera and directly addresses the audience, acknowledging he can feel their contempt but refuses to apologize for his actions in order to keep people safe. Because he's having the final say, because he's offering a rebuff to his movie, it feels more earned and fitting, and it would have had even more power if it were the only break in the movie rather than the last. It's hard to call this a comedy; it's more an incredulous indictment looking for its mob. I honestly think a straightforward biopic might have been the better route for Cheney. The first half of the film is more interesting and successful because it is the more illuminating half. I never knew that Lynne Cheney's father likely killed her mother. That's a pretty bold charge on behalf of the filmmakers. The early Cheney years are the moments the majority of Americans don't know about, whereas the later years have been well documented by a slew of hard-hitting documentaries, books, and journalistic exposes. There are whole movies about topics like the Valerie Plame leaking (Fair Game), the mounting mistakes after the invasion of Iraq (No End in Sight), the administration's policy on torture (Taxi to the Dark Side, Standard Operating Procedure), the drumbeat to the war and snuffing out of critical journalism (Shock and Awe, Lions for Lambs), the missing WMDs (Green Zone, Body of Lies), the Bush deferment memos (Truth), the long-term consequences for those servicemen who survive (The Hurt Locker, The Messenger, Stop-Loss, Last Flag Flying, In the Valley of Elah, American Sniper, Thank You For Your Service) and anything that Michael Moore sets his sights on. This list is not exhaustive by any means. Because of that the film seems to become a rudimentary montage once the Iraq War kicks off, sprinting through the rest as an intended tableau of hubris as Cheney's star and influence falls. I would rather have learned more about Cheney's early years in the Nixon, Ford, and H.W. Bush administrations and gleaned more personal insights into the man before he becomes this shadowy, mythic figure that seems downright Machiavellian in his control of government. It's interesting to watch Cheney and his cohorts plot their unchecked executive power behind the back of President Bush, but then what? It's the "then what?" question I keep revisiting with McKay's film, trying to figure out the larger intended message, themes, and dire warnings. I feel like because of the expanse of time covered, and the meta quirks applied, that the film too often feels like it's just scratching the surface of Cheney, providing a slight gloss to a political caricature. The biggest takeaway is the slippery slope of the "unitary executive theory," a term you'll hear often, that basically follows Nixon's own words: "If the president does it, it's not illegal." This questionable interpretation of Article II of the Constitution gives the president powers that approach a monarch, which seems antithetical the Founders' intents. McKay warns that any president could take advantage of this theory to do whatever he or she (sad trombone noise... sigh) desires. This is clearly meant to draw a line right to President Trump, but it's not like the 45th president needs sketchy legal cover to do his misdeeds. The idea that the Justice Department memos would be a lurking danger is quaint. A bad man with power is not going to look for the rules to allow him or her to break them. The idea that a president could be above the law is also a legally specious argument and one I don't believe our courts would readily back, even with the "unitary executive theory" (at least I hope so). With that in mind, Vice becomes a cautionary tale about the expenditure of power but lacks the adequate follow-through. Vice is a tricky biopic for a tricky subject and I wonder if it would have worked better being stripped of its prankster, meta interjections and tricks. It's a condemnation of Dick Cheney but it doesn't feel like it goes far enough if McKay's eventual thesis is that the current world problems began, or were grossly exacerbated, by the actions of Cheney. Climate change warnings going unheeded, ISIS formations going ignored, the generational consequences for unsettling the Middle East, and laying the foundation for an authoritarian strongman to be an acceptable political position for millions of Americans. These charges are clearly intended to be a denunciation of Cheney's legacy, but the end results play out somewhat differently, like a slap on the wrist. I think Dick Cheney could even watch this movie and nod in appreciation. That seems like a mistake. McKay is still a talented writer and filmmaker that knows how to keep his movie flowing and entertaining, buoyed by an outstanding performance from Bale. It's a movie with great components but seems to clumsily get in its own way with its presentation. If you're going to expose Dick Cheney as a heinous manipulator of power that has wrecked havoc for billions, then maybe you don't want to dilute your message. Nate's Grade: B-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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