Film Review – Vice (2019)

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It’s what I do for shits and giggles – I like putting on 40 pounds, shaving my head and bleaching my eyebrows!” proclaimed Christian Bale last year as he showcased his new look to the world. A million miles from Bruce Wayne, Patrick Bateman and others, the Oscar winner was immersing himself once again, this time as Dick Cheney. A year later, the results are in and for better or worse, Bale’s latest transformation is perhaps his most impressive yet, disappearing before our very eyes and reappearing as a man who, as the trailer tells us, changed the course of history forever.

This is no standard biopic, however, as in the hands of writer/director Adam McKay it has become something more, an almost macabre film that walks the fine line between tragedy and comedy, all the while still managing to be tremendously funny like his collaborations with Will Ferrell, although it really shouldn’t be given the circumstances. Beginning in his early years and taking us right through his time at the White House spanning many decades, McKay’s film is sharp as a razor: the film’s sensational editing from Hank Corwin, which may just be the best of the year, is the real star of the show, allowing McKay to charge head-first into Cheney’s lust for power and his all-consuming ambition, with the same energy that made The Big Short such a hit.

It was always going to take something (or indeed someone) special to pull this one off, and McKay is blessed with the aforementioned former Batman who is simply sensational. Sure, he embodies Cheney’s look, feel and sound but it’s more than that: it’s almost as if he’s possessed by the former Vice President such is his attention to detail here. It’s more than impersonation, more than immersion, that Bale brings to the table and with it, he has bestowed on us with his finest work to date. Supporting him are excellent turns from Amy Adams – even if there isn’t quite enough of her throughout – Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell as “W”, with Jesse Plemons and Alison Pill also excelling.

Whether the film will sit well with you is open for debate as its stylistic choices are quite ferocious, and its leaning towards the more crazy aspects of such a character, rather than his true evil, may feel disingenuous to many. Indeed, it does ring true that despite all of the horrendousness that is going on, it never quite carries the weight it should – both in the decisions and their aftermath – and as such, loses some of its real drama. Taken as something of an absurdist look at how power and ambition can change the course of history, Vice is a worthy and brilliantly entertaining film that once again showcases the otherworldly talents of its star and director.

Scott J.Davis | [rating=4]

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