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Review: Vice – “Exposes the shenanigans rife in the corridors of power”

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Written and directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short), Vice tells the story of the rise to power of Dick Cheney, the vice president to George W. Bush. Cheney is played by Christian Bale (American Psycho), and the film also stars Amy Adams (Arrival), Sam Rockwell (Moon), Steve Carell (The Office) and Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).

Beginning with Cheney (Bale) as a high school dropout drunkard, Vice charts his turnaround post-stern-talking-to from girlfriend Lynn (Adams). Cheney goes to Washington to intern for Donald Rumsfeld (Carell), where he learns the political ropes before slowly starting to gain power and influence himself – culminating in him becoming the second-in-command to the President of the United States of America.

Cheney finagles a lot more power than a vice president would usually have — he himself tells us a “vice” usually just sits around waiting for the president to die — due to taking advantage of the hapless and clueless Bush (Rockwell). McKay explains what are a lot of complicated political machinations in an extremely enjoyable way utilising very slick visuals, fake credits and even Shakespeare, as well as plenty of the humour honed from his comedy background directing Anchorman and Step Brothers. The film admits from the off that they’ve had to do this and that they “tried their best” as Cheney is so secretive and so much of his past is unknown. But as well as filling in the blanks, all these tricks and techniques make the story far more entertaining and accessible than it may otherwise have been.

Vice does not glorify Cheney though, nor does it paint him as a hero. The skilful filmmaking sneaks a lot of his villainous and horrible actions by us before laying them and their selfish and awful consequences bare before you later on – making them all the more shocking, and showing that someone who knows how to wield a seemingly small amount power effectively can use it have a lasting effect over the entire world.

Bale is excellent. Not only is his physical transformation incredible, but he also has Cheney’s quiet power, slow purposeful delivery and even his breathing down pat. It is not very often you watch an actor just sitting there breathing and think “Wow. He’s amazing.”

The supporting cast is also wonderful, Carell’s Rumsfeld is an enigmatic arsehole survivor, Adams is the scarily conservative power behind the throne, Rockwell’s goofy cowboy dipstick Bush is spot on, and Alison Pill’s performance as Cheney’s ex-communicated gay daughter Mary is absolutely heartbreaking.

The prescience of the politics is chilling and the acting is exquisite in this expertly crafted, meta, modern history lesson. Vice exposes the shenanigans rife in the corridors of power and the awful consequences that unchecked unscrupulous people can inflict across the globe for years to come.

Vice is released in the UK on the 25th of January.

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