After watching the trailer, I knew I needed to see VICE before the Golden Globe Awards (which are fast approaching, this Sunday, January 6). The movie is written and directed by Adam McKay, who also wrote and directed The Big Short, an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book about the demise of Wall Street.
VICE shares the same quick pace, choppy cuts from scene to scene, and pop culture references as The Big Short, though this time the focus is not on the men behind the financial crisis, but on one man - former Vice President Dick Cheney.
In the film, actor Christian Bale completely transforms to become Cheney. Not only did he gain weight (it was hard to picture his Batman body under there), but he changed his posture, his gait, the sound and tone of his voice - it was, as they say, method.
In his review for Slate, writer Fred Kaplan describes, “Christian Bale is Dick Cheney. The crooked sneer, the staccato growl, the chokehold air of condescension—and Bale, who may be the most chameleonic actor around, goes deep with the portrayal. There are moments in this film that hint at complexity: Cheney’s attachment to his family and incessant desire to please his wife, Lynne (who is also played with full Lady Macbethian fidelity by Amy Adams); his loving support for his daughter, Mary, when she comes out as a lesbian; the anguish when his other daughter, Liz, criticizes gay marriage while running for Congress. If this film had made a personal tragedy or a political thriller or any kind of film about Cheney, Bale would not have had to change his performance one bit.”
Bale plays opposite Amy Adams, cast as his wife Lynne. I’m ashamed to admit that I had no idea how involved Lynne Cheney was in politics. I was still quite young when Cheney became VP, so I was blissfully unaware of his wife’s role in the Republican party.
In an interview with The New York Times Magazine, McKay explained the difference between directing his friend and fellow comedian Will Ferrell (they did SNL, Anchorman, Anchorman 2, The Other Guys, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights together) and directing Bale and Adams. He said, “ . . . doing a scene with Ferrell, it’s almost like I’m out there with him,” whereas, working with Bale and Adams on VICE, “it’s very gentle, very subtle. If Ferrell’s a Ferrari, meaning fast and fun, I feel like Bale and Adams are narwhals” — a wondrous species of whale with a unicorn-like tusk, hard to find outside the Far North. “You’re watching them, like: ‘I can’t believe I’m seeing this. I’m gonna shut up. That’s an actual narwhal. You can see the horn!’” That last bit made me laugh out loud.
In addition to Bale and Adams, Sam Rockwell steps into the role of George W. Bush. He strikes just the right balance between Southern charm and stupidity. In a scene now famous from the trailer, Rockwell (as George W.) chomps down onto a chicken wing, and mid-chew asks Cheney, “So, are we doin’ this thing?”
Other stellar actors take the screen - Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, Alison Pill (Maggie from The Newsroom) as Mary Cheney, and Jesse Plemons (Landry from Friday Night Lights) as the film’s narrator.
The movie is a bit long - two hours and twelve minutes - and psyches you out about an hour in with a fake ending (I didn’t ruin anything, calm down). By the end, you are feeling majorly stressed out and in complete awe of all the terrible things Cheney set in motion during his time in the White House.
VICE leads the pack at this Sunday’s Golden Globes with six nominations - the most for any film this year. The movie is up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor.
Tell me, have you seen it? What did you think?