Vice (AU - M/UK - 15/US - R)

In a Word: Scathing

Vice

Christian Bale plays former Vice President Dick Cheney and Sam R Rockwell plays George W Bush in Vice. PICTURE: Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures

 

"Vice - a hyperbolic comedy-drama - is a unque and memorable movie and will evoke everything from deep anger to laughter to sadness. But the ultimate takeaway is about the power of corruption and the corruption of power, and how power can be used purely for it’s own sake to the detriment of millions. This film highlights again the need for the redemption of the human heart by something greater than itself, and for humanity to remain in touch with reality by staying close to those who struggle and by having a heart that seeks to serve others rather than itself."

In the era of Donald Trump, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t too long ago that many people wondered what the world had come to with the administration of US President George W Bush.

From election night in 2000, the Bush Presidency was plagued with controversy, and at the centre of it all stood, among others, Vice President Dick Cheney. 

Vice is the story of Cheney’s political career, and how a man on the brink of self-destruction in his younger years let himself be seduced by power to become second in charge to the most powerful person on the planet. The movie is a scathing, unapologetic and brutal look at a man and his wife whose lust for power apparently knew no boundaries.

A comedy-drama about a man who had very some serious power and responsibility, Vice stars Christian Bale stars as Cheney. He pulls it off brilliantly, including using the characteristic sighs of the deep-breathing VP to inject some of the comedy into the drama. Steve Carell, meanwhile, plays the role of Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, with confidence while Sam R Rockwell takes on the role of Bush who comes across as the candidate - and then President - who is easily led by the more intelligent players in the inner circle and is never really totally sure about what is going on, just that he wants to do his father’s work as commander-in-chief.

The story opens with Cheney courting the strong but equally power-hungry and soon-to-be-wife Lynne (Amy Adams) and struggling with alcohol and a job which he didn’t believe offered him any future. Eventually he secures a job in the White House and, while he feels like he has made it, Cheney still wanted more. Fast forward to a meeting with Governor Bush from Texas who asks Cheney to be his running mate for the 2000 election, and the wily Cheney sees his opportunity to take advantage of the more simple Bush to become the most powerful vice president in US history.

From the drama of the 2000 election to the tragedy of 9/11, the corruption of power and conflicts of interest in Cheney become more evident as the movie rolls on. History has shown that the oil company, Halliburton, of which Cheney was CEO before he ran for vice president, won a $US7 billion contract for work in Iraq after the US invasion in 2003. And on the very day that the Twin Towers came down in New York, Cheney is shown to be scheming about how the disaster can benefit his interests.

As well as his Cheney’s political career, the movie describes more personal moments including his multiple heart-attacks and the coming out of his daughter, Mary (Alison Pill), as gay. In the one scene where Cheney and his wife are seen as showing some sort of compassion, Mary is surrounded with love and support after her emotional family announcement. 

In the end though, this is a story of the power of political seduction, a seduction which is made easier when the main characters are all willing participants. We see this highlighted towards the end of the movie when the Cheneys’ other daughter, Liz (Lily Rabe), stands for election after Dick and Lynne go along with her decision to take a stand against same-sex marriage. The decision to choose political power over family leaves Mary devastated and splits the family.

The comedic aspects of the movie include the rather bizarre narration by a character named Kurt (played by Jesse Plemons) as well as rolling the credits half-way through the movie (don’t get up and walk out; the story is only just beginning!). And when the real credits roll at the real end of the movie, make sure you stay until the end. 

Vice - a hyperbolic comedy-dramais a unque and memorable movie and will evoke everything from deep anger to laughter to sadness. But the ultimate takeaway is about the power of corruption and the corruption of power, and how power can be used purely for it’s own sake to the detriment of millions. This film highlights again the need for the redemption of the human heart by something greater than itself, and for humanity to remain in touch with reality by staying close to those who struggle and by having a heart that seeks to serve others rather than itself.