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‘Vice’ lacks conflict, comedic character

Film’s strong cast gives memorable performance

BE+MY+VICE.+Christian+Bale+and+Amy+Adams+play+former+Vice+President+Dick+Cheney+and+Lynne+Chenney+in+%E2%80%9CVice%2C%E2%80%9D+released+Dec.+25%2C+2018.+The+film+was+nomiated+for+six+Golden+Globe+awards.+Christian+Bale+won+Best+Actor+in+Motion+Picture+Musical+or+Comedy+for+the+film.+%E2%80%9CVice%E2%80%9D+is+also+nominated+for+eight+Academy+Awards%2C+including+Best+Picture+and+Best+Director.
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‘Vice’ lacks conflict, comedic character

BE MY VICE. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Chenney in “Vice,” released Dec. 25, 2018. The film was nomiated for six Golden Globe awards. Christian Bale won Best Actor in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the film. “Vice” is also nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

BE MY VICE. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Chenney in “Vice,” released Dec. 25, 2018. The film was nomiated for six Golden Globe awards. Christian Bale won Best Actor in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the film. “Vice” is also nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

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BE MY VICE. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Chenney in “Vice,” released Dec. 25, 2018. The film was nomiated for six Golden Globe awards. Christian Bale won Best Actor in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the film. “Vice” is also nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

IMBd

IMBd

BE MY VICE. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Chenney in “Vice,” released Dec. 25, 2018. The film was nomiated for six Golden Globe awards. Christian Bale won Best Actor in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the film. “Vice” is also nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Emma Trone, Editor-in-Chief

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The Trump-era of politics has even some tried-and-true liberals missing the Presidency of George W. Bush. But “Vice,” a biopic centered on Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, unflinchingly dredges up the horrors of that era and how they still haunt us today.

Written and directed by Adam McKay, whose last project was “The Big Short,” “Vice” shares a similar style to its predecessor. Both are sharp in their sarcasm and use a frenetic combination of past and present, real and surreal images that are purposely overwhelming.

But “Vice” can’t hold on to the same comedic character that drove “The Big Short.” The circumstances simply don’t allow it. By and large, the nation has recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. But we’ve never recovered from the lives of those lost in the Iraq War and the birth of ISIS, the proliferation of politicized news or the expansion of presidential power that is nearly dictatorial.

Because of the global implications of Cheney’s actions, the film never seems to understand its own tone. It’s satirical and furious, but the global and personal impacts of his decisions also require a certain drama that never strikes the right chord. Combined with a few weak, extended metaphors that largely fall flat, the middle section of the movie feels like merely a checklist of historical events that Cheney was even tangentially involved in, failing to infuse them with the emotions that should be readily available.

Lack of conflict also makes this movie frustrating to watch. Besides an opening scene where Cheney pivotally chooses to become more than a drunken powerline worker, neither Cheney nor the movie ever seem to reach a similar point where the stakes feel particularly high, which should be easy in a movie with this subject. Instead, Cheney breezes from the Nixon administration to the Ford administration to the Bush administrations, easily manipulating the media and fellow politicians and underhandedly making decisions that change, and end, the lives of millions. While that may well have been the way Cheney’s career went, the lack of even inner conflict means that the movie similarly breezes by, without reaching any dramatic highs or lows.

Despite the lackluster writing, the cast still pulls off memorable appearances. Christian Bale embodies Cheney’s physicality and quietly devious demeanor so well, it’s hard not to marvel at his transformation each time he’s on screen. As Cheney’s wife, Lynne, Amy Adams becomes a 20th century Lady Macbeth, complete with the resentment that comes with personal ambitions that will never be realized. Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush play their loose-talking, almost goofy roles perfectly against Cheney’s quiet, measured presence.

When the threads of both the earlier plot points of the movie and Cheney’s life combine with the pains of the present, the pure hatred that the on-screen Cheney finally elicits is truly staggering. But even the shock of the ending and other genuinely surprising, heart-wrenching moments can’t pull the movie out of the tonal mess it makes beforehand.

 

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‘Vice’ lacks conflict, comedic character