Dick Cheney was terrible and he is perhaps the largest driving force behind the current state of American politics. At least, that’s what Vice is trying to say.
This film makes it clear from the beginning that it isn’t interested in being a straightforward biopic. It follows in the style of The Big Short, director Adam McKay’s previous film. There is constant fourth wall breaking and some of the characters seem more like caricatures than attempts at accurate depictions of these real life people. George W. Bush, for example, is presented as if he would be much better fit to run for city council in Pawnee, Indiana on Parks and Recreation than for president of the United States.
In doing this, though, the film’s bias shows. It is a heavily liberal film which is interested in exposing Dick Cheney for the monster the filmmakers perceive him to be. In and of itself, this isn’t a problem. Where the film falls short, though, is in communicating the implications of what we have just seen.
The movie shows Cheney as someone who attempts to gain as much political power as possible. It presents facts to show the way he worked to give the president more power than he would have had in the past. McKay focuses on these aspects of Cheney’s story to show how much he was really involved in everything that was happening in the country at the time.
But again, McKay doesn’t take that last step to say what can be done about the current climate. It’s one thing to provide a scapegoat and someone to blame, but that just tends to make the movie ring hollow. He can throw out another incredible transformation by Christian Bale, the great performances from Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, the quick cuts, narration, and onscreen text, and the dark humor. But this does is hide the fact that the movie plays more like a two hour long complaint about our current state of affairs.
McKay may be warranted in wanting to find someone to blame. As people, when something goes wrong, we like to find someone to point our fingers at. But this movie doesn’t carry the weight he wants it to. It will be popular with those who agree with his position or with people who are learning about this period in American history because of this film, but it isn’t going to win anyone over to his position.