The Big Short director Adam McKay’s latest film takes aim at former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and once again uses jet-black, cutthroat humour to relate all too many scandalous truths
A biopic concerning the life of Dick Cheney (who surely won’t be too happy about his portrayal), this has TBS star Christian Bale as our subject, and the famously chameleonic actor had to gain 45 pounds, thicken up his neck muscles and improvise freely to play the guy. And there are times where the transformation is so remarkable that you almost forget that it’s him.
Opening with the early-20s Dick (who looks more like a fat Christian Bale here) being picked up drink-driving, we then listen as a narrator whose identity remains deliberately unclear proceeds to tell us how DC went from being a drunken wreck and failed academic to becoming Vice President of the United States from 2001 until 2009. Early scenes suggest his casual lack of concern for anyone but his long-suffering wife Lynne (Amy Adams), but he eventually gets on track and somehow winds up a Washington intern in 1968. Impressed by the crude, conniving Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), he decides, virtually on a whim, to be a Republican, and rises through the ranks against the backdrop of those heady 70s and the whole humiliating Watergate business.
Leaping about chronologically, we eventually find Dick as Secretary of Defense in 1989 under George H.W. Bush (John Hillner) and get a glimpse of the young and embarrassing George W. (Sam Rockwell, subtly but effectively made-up). ‘Dubya’ is then relentlessly mocked as he’s the one pushed to become President and, of course, wins the 2000 election, although it’s obvious that Cheney was the one pulling the warmongering, money-grubbing, 9/11-exploiting strings, and loving it. Or as much as Bale’s Dick can love anything.
For such a complex story and potentially libelous material, this is just so damn funny, albeit in the most shocking of ways. And, like The Big Short, it’s full of delicious alienation tricks: there are hilarious fake credits and wannabe-Shakespearean dialogue sequences; the secret narrator (Jesse Plemons) talks directly to camera and discusses SpongeBob Squarepants; there’s a surprise nod to Marvel comics; and some cool cameo players appear but remain happily unbilled.
Like the best black comedies, however, McKay’s masterwork makes us feel awfully guilty for laughing, especially when, in the final stages, he pulls off an Oliver-Stone-topping montage that could and should leave you absolutely speechless.
But is it actually a movie about Trump made by bleeding-heart liberals? Well, of course it is! How could it not be? And be sure to stick around for a mid-end-credits gag bit that’s about as scathing as scathing gets.
Vice (M) is in cinemas from December 26