Bale is brilliant, but Vice is patronising and over stylised

Flawed biopic of controversial US vice-president still has its moments

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney.

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney.

WITH ALL the attention on the current White House administration, comes Vice, a full blown Hollywood blockbuster about Dick Cheney, the vice president of the USA from 2001 to 2009.

We start with 9/11. While everyone else is watching on, Cheney effectively uses unitary executive theory (this is explained well in the film ) to put motions in place to make him, the vice president, as powerful as the president. We then cut back to Cheney is a young man working the line in Wyoming. He has recently dropped out of Yale and is going nowhere. At a pivotal point in his life his wife, Lynne, threatens to leave him unless he can provide the life and power she wants. He makes his way to Washington to work for the Nixon Administration. The rest is, unfortunately for the civilised world, history.

Cheney is played by Christian Bale in another transformative performance. In a film that has lots of genuine flaws, Bale is what keeps it interesting. He is extremely watchable here, which is not a compliment I would always give him. When Bale jokingly thanked Satan for inspiration in his Golden Globe acceptance speech he was not kidding. You get the feeling there was a sniff of sulphur in the air when Cheney was exercising some of that executive power. He also perfectly captures Cheney's unusual Christopher Walken like speech pattern - full of pauses and breaks in speech. It is an interesting comparison to Remi Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek is doing a convincing impression, Bale is giving a performance.

'A huge amount of information is crammed into the final 30 minutes and critics would say lots of key information is left out'

I am actually shocked Sam Rockwell has been nominated for best supporting actor in his role here as George W Bush. His performance is merely OK. I actually think Will Ferrel (producer here ) did a better on job as W on Saturday Night Live. Amy Adams is unsurprisingly brilliant playing Lynn Chaney (not her most difficult role ). After Beautiful Boy I was really happy to see Steve Carrel give a cynical, great, and slightly goofy performance as Donald Rumsfeld.

I only half liked this movie. Director Adam McKay started his career making goofball comedies with Will Ferrell, directing Anchorman and Step Brother. Then in 2015 he made the massively successful The Big Short, a movie which managed to explain the financial crisis of 2008 in a humorous but still angry way. The elements that worked so well in The Big Short - the cut aways to explain the sub prime mortgages, characters addressing the audience directly, the TED talk like interludes - are imitated here in Vice but did not work.

The Big Short was a dramatised explanation of a complicated event. It can feel patronising and over stylised. I also found the pacing off. A huge amount of information is crammed into the final 30 minutes and critics would say lots of key information is left out. Its main problem though, is tone, and I wonder if McKay is able to do anything other than this style of film. That said it does not break the film, and there is a lot to enjoy here, in what is a quite shocking story.



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