Film Review – ‘VICE’ (2019)


As unconventional in style and irreverent in approach as the real life figure at its centre, ‘VICE’ sees director Adam McKay build on his impressive work in ‘The Big Short’ with this provocative character study. Flawed but entertaining, and featuring strong central performances from Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell, it’s a topical, fascinating drama full to the brim with back room scheming and ruthless ambition.

There will be many cinemagoers that know little or nothing about Dick Cheney, the former Vice President of the United States serving under George W. Bush, but the story of his unexpected but meteoric climb to the height of political power is not to be missed.

Rising through the ranks and exploiting numerous loopholes along the way, Bale’s Cheney is depicted as a cunning, driven strategist, using the Oval Office as his personal chessboard on the way to acquiring the reins of control. Emerging from his early years with little to show for it, a sharp-tongued pep talk from his wife-to-be Lynne (played with admirably understated emotion by six time Oscar-nominee Amy Adams), Cheney sets his sights firmly on exploiting the political system and reaping the rewards as a result.

In such highly polarized times there are many who may be turned off by the thought of watching a film exploring such hot button topics of corruption and backstabbing in the White House, but ‘VICE’ is a rewarding, highly entertaining viewing experience, with everything from its highly likable, surprising narrator to its ambitious scale and rug pull plot twists making it a very unusual biopic.

McKay’s film avoids presenting a straightforward explanation of its central character, and spends as much time examining his family life as his working one. In this Amy Adams is a winning co-star, who lifts what could have been a 2D role into one brimming with emotion and a sense of genuine connection. Bale and Adams play off each other well as a couple taking on the world. That said the latter half of the film is noticeably lighter on Adams’ presence and influence and suffers for it. Once his political career takes off she’s often relegated to a secondary position, and a greater emphasis on her shifting role throughout the peaks and trophs of his professional life would have made for more compelling viewing.

Despite this the split between Cheney’s public and private personas is ultimately among the film’s greatest strengths, particularly at the denouement of the film, when Cheney is forced to choose between his personal and career allegiances – a choice that leads to tragedies great and small.

Is there any one defining moment that explains such a controversial figure, or provides all our answers? McKay doesn’t seem concerned with giving us one,

Alex Straker

Biography, Drama | USA, 2018 | 15 | 25th January 2019 (UK) | Entertainment One | Dir.Adam McKay | Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemmons