At just over 11 minutes into Vice, the new film from Adam McKay (“The Big Short“, “Ant-Man”) which is produced by Brad Pitt and Will Ferrell (yes really), the following words appear on screen:
“Beware the quiet man. For while others speak, he watches. And while others act, he plans. And when they finally rest…he strikes.”
This then, is our introduction to the American Vice President of George Bush Junior, Dick Cheney, played here with remarkable likeness by Christian Bale (“The Big Short“, “The Dark Knight Rises”).
Cheney is an infamously secretive man, and not just from the 22 million emails that appear to have gone missing when he was in office with Bush. He managed, quite remarkably these days, to keep himself and his family largely out of the spotlight.
This doesn’t go unnoticed by the film, but they state: “we did our f*cking best”. This lets you into the secret of Vice. Whilst it’s a film with something to say, it does so in such a way that it knows what a lot of people will be thinking about it whilst they’re watching it.
Vice pokes fun at itself, at these sorts of movies, on more than one occasion, and at the end it even pokes fun at the whole over two-hours you’ve just sat through as one guy says “the whole thing’s liberal. It’s got a liberal bias.” As someone else counters with the fact that, unlike many in the White House, or indeed many in power in countries around the world, Hollywood generally has a lot of lawyers to check these things through.
When things are a little sketchy, the film points it out, when things get a little deep-seated in US politics our voice-over guy Kurt, Jesse Plemons (“The Post“, “Bridge Of Spies“), is there to help us through. Sometimes this works well, sometimes it’s not so successful.
Bale even breaks the fourth wall at the end, talking directly to you, the viewer, and his message is one that will make you think.
Bale is simply brilliant in the role of Cheney, not just from the prosthetics that he has and the weight he’s gained, but his mannerisms, his voice, the whole package is remarkable.
But he’s not the only one, perhaps slightly less of a physical change but when Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“, “Moon”) turns up in the film as George Bush Junior, well, you have two heavy-weights going toe-to-toe in the mimicking game. It’s wonderful to watch.
McKay has fun with Vice, he juxtapositions the lifestyle of the wealthy and safe congress with those being bombed out of their homes in a way that will make you jump out of your skin at times.
In Bale, he has a leading man who one imagines never broke character. He’s serious throughout, whilst Carell is having fun and Adams is flying the flag for the women, Bale is the quiet, almost unassuming Dick Cheney. A man who was ruthless, relentless, and found new ways to play the system that gave those in charge even more power than they already had.