Here it is, the first of many reviews for 2019 and what a film to start with. Il say it here, you are likely to either love or hate this movie, it’s a very polarising experience.With that said, on with the review.
‘Vice’ stars Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, a man who, for better or worse used his time in the White House to shape our world into the one we see and live in today. I purposefully didn’t research into the film or Cheney himself beforehand as I didn’t want to create a premeditated opinion in my mind of a man who I knew little to nothing about, I believe this allowed me to really digest the film and see it in its most purest form.
The plot of the film is centred around Cheney, but wastes no time in showing us his rapid rise through the ranks of congress, eventually leading him to vice presidency of the most powerful nation in the world. I overall enjoyed the plot, there was a lot to like and everyone involved does an excellent job in their roles, teetering on the lines of morality and constantly asking you what to think of them and their motives. The film is directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Big Short) and definitely likes to show its quirky side on many occasions, not always however, being able to stick the landing.
The film really struggles in trying to define what it’s trying to be. One moment the film is showing you harrowing imagery such as the effects that bombs being dropped on villages half a world away all came about by one signature on a piece of paper. Whereas the next scene will amp up the goofiness and take a very lighthearted approach to sensitive subjects such as gay marriage. If the film calmed itself down, composed itself, found a vibe and stuck to it, then it could have been a masterpiece. However, as things are, the film comes across as messy, trying too hard at times to nail the points they are trying to make. There are moments where the film does concentrate and these moments shine through like sunshine. It’s just a shame the film feels so jumbled and there are too many tones involved that you never feel like you can settle into the experience. There’s two goofy moments that stuck out for me that also killed the momentum of the movie dead in its tracks SPOILER START one moment halfway through the film where a fake credits reel is shown for no particular reason except to get a chuckle out of you and later on an exchange between Cheney and his wife (played by Amy Adams) is played out like a Shakespearean play which went on for just long enough to become awkward and ultimately came across as silly SPOILER END. Towards the films climax, the film settles into a rhythm for half an hour that should have been the default from the beginning as it was easily the strongest part of the film and included a moment that truly gave me chills (a mirroring scene between a moment in the white house and halfway around the world underneath a kitchen table).The film ends very strongly and my friend who saw the film with me, agreed that the film could of gone on for another half an hour after that and we wouldn’t have minded. The film also contains a mid-credit scene that easily gave us the best laugh of the film. A very satisfying ending to a sometimes frustrating product.
Concerning the performances, what more can I say about Christian Bale that hasn’t already been said countless times before. The man is an inspiration to anyone working in the film industry and serves as a benchmark as to how one can transform themselves for a role. Bale is easily the best part of the film and ultimately, I believe the film would have failed without him. He’s such a presence on film in all of his roles but there’s something quietly disturbing about his portrayal of Cheney. The quietness of the man only makes you more curious about him and his intentions and may fascinate or terrify you when you discover how easily he took the reigns of the the most prestigious office in the world and carried out his will whether the people wanted it or not.
As the film is politics-heavy, it will undoubtedly divide opinion and some will see it as too liberal and others will think it not liberal enough. Luckily for my sake, I can put my personal opinions on politics in the back of my mind and experience the film as a neutral. I would like to think the filmmakers tried to keep the story as close to reality as they could, but it’s always good to take everything with a pinch of salt and acknowledge that this is made by people with opinions of their own that they may subconsciously be inserting into their work. The film felt very similar at points to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11(2004) in the way that certain exposition is revealed to the audience, often using stock images and numerous visual media to help explain certain points that are being made.This gave the film a documentary-like feel which I felt were the most engrossing moments of the feature. Amy Adams actually had a relatively small role in this which left me a little puzzled at first as she has proved herself to be one of the most accomplished actresses working today but after seeing Bale dominate scene after scene (often without muttering more than a few words) I understood why they needed her to play second fiddle, however, it is still another solid outing and she feels very strong in her character and can show so much in her facial expressions alone.
Sam Rockwell and Steve Carell are also here putting on extremely entertaining performances and Carell can easily go from humorous to intimidating in his early scenes and it’s nice to see him as more than the cheap comedy relief for once, that character is instead given to Rockwell who looked more like George Bush than George Bush himself, nailing his mannerisms and in my opinion was the second strongest performance in the film behind Bale, although his screen time was surprisingly shorter than expected, he portrayed Bush as less (sometimes) bumbling idiot and more unfortunate pawn in Cheney’s master plan.
In conclusion, Vice was an enjoyable experience with great performances from all involved (special mentions to American Horror Story duo Alison Pill and Lily Rabe who portrayed Cheney’s daughters who deserved more screen time of their own. The plot felt fulfilling as it gave us a look at a figure who hasn’t been given much movie attention before yet bears responsibility for many situations the world has had to deal with and created consequences that can still be felt in certain parts of the world even today. If the filmmakers decided on a single theme/ tone for the film from the get-go, the film could have been a masterpiece due to the stellar acting on show and the fully realised and expertly portrayed characters. Christian Bale is my first choice for Best Actor at next months academy awards although he faces tough competition from Rami Malek and Bradley Cooper in their own rights, however, I simply felt Bale went that extra mile he often does in order to get a deeper understanding of the individual he is portraying and truly lives the character from the inside out. Vice will divide opinion for sure and may even be regarded as a classic in years to come as it certainly has that cult-classic vibe that so many filmmakers are envious to achieve nowadays and I look forward to its release on Blu ray as the cost is worth it just to watch Christian Bale (and co.) give the acting world the masterclass it sorely needs in the art of bringing characters to life in such a way that when you watch them, you find it difficult to differentiate the real person from the one put to screen and that is when you know you have succeeded in your job as a truly talented actor.
Overall rating: 8.0