Vice: A stylish tale of political ambition and comedic brilliance

22nd January 2019

Adam McKay may just be starting a cult following in developing films which are high on factual accuracy yet also comedy. Where his previous hit The Big Short went through the 2008 financial crash, Vice delves in to the rise of Dick Cheney from University-dropout to Vice-President. It’s an extraordinary story made more interesting by McKay’s comedic style, where once would be tense boardrooms are now chess pieces or comedic narration. This film is certainly a product of its time, dumbing itself down to the point it could feel infantile if the message wasn’t so important.

Christian Bale and Amy Adams form a formidable acting presence and power-couple on screen. Acting as Dick and Lynne Cheney respectively, across half a century from Wyoming to Washington DC it is a pleasure to watch these two whenever they share a scene. They are joined by Steve Carrell (as Donald Rumsfeld) and Sam Rockwell (as George W. Bush), but it’s the smaller roles which brings the film together such as Tyler Perry and Alfred Molina.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale in Vice.

Starting in Wyoming where Cheney is working as an electrical engineer, we are introduced to the source of his drive and determination – his wife. If ever there was a powerful woman on screen it is Lynne Cheney. After Dick is arrested for drunk-driving Lynne practically lifts him up, asking him to prove “she did not marry the wrong man”. From there the quiet unassuming man becomes an assistant to Donald Rumsfeld and gets an office in the White House, in many ways this is an inspiring story until you consider the ruthlessness Dick Cheney operates under. As much as the film is about him, it is about his impact on American Politics in the decades to come which McKay really wants to deliver.

The film is grand in scope. As the film continues, certain political figures appear from Nixon to Tony Blair; Dick Cheney was there in the background pulling strings and gaining power. Tying this film together across the decades is narrator Jesse Plemons, who paints the intimate life of the Cheney’s and their political ambitions. The film aims to be more Epic than bio-pic. There’s even a mid-credit scene, as if this were a superhero film.

By aiming to be accessible by even the most casual viewer of American politics, it can almost feel like the comedy is turning the film into a satire. When George W. Bush enters the film, he’s a caricature of the man who started the war in Iraq, chewing on buffalo wings and donning a cowboy hat, however that is the image that was portrayed at the time. McKay takes the phrase ‘the truth is stranger than fiction’ and then makes it stranger still. The effect is a film that will make you laugh and curl your fist in anger, overall a stylish tale of political ambition and comedic brilliance aimed at the Trump-era of politics. 

Vice is theatrically released on 25th January 2019.


Words by Sunny Ramgolam @SunnyRamgolam.

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