2019 Film Reviews - 6: Vice [dir. Adam McKay; 2018]
We quite often hear the complaint that ‘worthy’ films preach to the converted; Ken Loach’s output is perhaps the first that comes to mind in this regard. So why am I not excited by the possibility that the irreverent, genre-morphing style of Vice might be the very thing that gets through to audiences who wouldn’t normally show any interest in a political biopic? Maybe it’s because I'm not entirely convinced that the movie works. As in his previous The Big Short, Adam McKay employs a frenetic combination of news footage, on-screen graphics, direct-to-camera addresses, sardonic voiceovers and quirky cameos (Alfred Molina’s is particularly memorable) to portray the allegedly Machiavellian scheming of Dick Cheney, arguing that the man is single-handedly responsible for almost all the major tragedies that have befallen the world since the start of the G W Bush administration. By and large, he presents a compelling case, but although the pace and the actors just about keep the whole afloat (Christian Bale is rightly lauded for his astonishing and admirably underplayed central performance) there are several points when some of the assertions threaten to collapse upon themselves. But maybe it's this sense of single-minded determination that deserves the greatest praise: McKay’s sheer chutzpah and ambition in attempting to shine some light through one of the most opaque subjects of recent decades whilst simultaneously offering a piece of energetic entertainment.