Vice captures the reality and non-reality of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), a man who sought power or at least to control the men who have it. That makes his amoral quest a Hollywood comedy.
The director Adam McKay treats Cheney rise as the story of a super villain coming to know his own evil genius. A heavily made up of Christian Bale aids the wicked satire with an on point impersonation of Cheney right down to his malevolent whine and knowingly manipulative grin. Cheney’s superpower, as McKay notes in a voice over, lies in his ability to convince others in the seeming reasonableness of even his most absurd ideas.
This also comes close to Shakespearean villainy- Iago with a grand evil motive, Richard III with a horse to ride, Macbeth with an even more capable Lady Macbeth co-conspirator power grabber in Amy Adams Lynne Cheney— a point McKay heightens by having the two recite a famous bed chamber Macbeth dialogue scene. The great American tragedy is that Cheney succeeded beyond his wildest ambitions.
The only shaft that McKay can give this evil genius is the satirical one. Cheney’s march through the gullible (Sam Rockwell’s George Bush Jr naïf being the primary one) and corruptible (Steve Carell’s Donald Rumsfeld a poignant and wickedly funny example) Republican ranks is mostly unimpeded.
Vice eventually over extends itself, because evil geniuses are stealthy, quiet, a bit one note and a bit boring to watch after a while.
All photos courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.