“Vice”

 

            Those of us who are contemporaries of Dick Cheney will assume that we know about the events that are common to our time period.  But Dick Cheney's experience of them is different than the rest of us, because he had access to information that we did not.  But Adam McKay, who wrote and directed the movie “Vice,” will tell you that Dick Cheney will not tell you what he knows, anyway. 

            Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) did not begin his career auspiciously.  He flunked out of Yale.  He was working as a lineman in his native Wyoming, and picked up two DUIs.  After the second one, his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) confronted him, telling him that either he straightens up or she's leaving.  He decided that he didn't want her to leave.

            Next thing we know, Dick Cheney is a White house intern, which definitely whetted his appetite for politics.  He befriends Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carrell), who mentors him to a staff position, and to eventually become Gerald Ford's Chief of Staff.  When the election of Jimmy Carter brought the Democrats to office, Cheney gets elected as a Congressman from Wyoming.  He became George H.W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, and when Bill Clinton's election brings the Democrats back in, Cheney works in the private sector, becoming CEO of Halliburton.  Then George W. Bush (Sam Rockwall) asks Cheney to be his running mate, and Dick Cheney serves as Vice President for eight years, during the critical times of 9/11, and the subsequent invasion of Iraq.

            In Adam McKay's “Vice,” Dick Cheney is portrayed as a powerful behind-the-scenes figure who, in effect, took charge on 9/11, supported “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., waterboarding) and gathered unsubstantiated intel reports in order to justify the invasion of Iraq, because of Saddam Hussein's “weapons of mass destruction.”  Cheney came under fire in some Republican circles for supporting his gay daughter, Mary.  The movie portrays an exchange where George W. Bush supports Cheney's decision personally, but states that in certain voting blocs, they will still have to be officially against gay marriage.  Cheney's daughter Liz runs for Congress from Wyoming, and faces the same kind of questioning, but after denying her support for gay marriage, she is elected.

            Yes, the movie is critical of Cheney, so much so that the he's made out to be a buffoon, which makes this film less of a biodoc and more of a satirical lampooning, which in turn led the Golden Globes to nominate it in their category of “musical or comedy.”  Hmm.  Well, who knew Tyler Perry looked like Colin Powell?

            Bale's portrayal of Dick Cheney is as a tight-lipped, undemonstrative, affect-less man of few words and even fewer loyalties.  He eventually even axes his old mentor Rumsfeld.  Lynne is portrayed as having more charisma as a public speaker, and a successful author in her own right.  Not surprisingly, George W. Bush is portrayed first as a wastrel, then as a “good ol' boy” who was in over his head, buying a ranch just to try to demonstrate to the public that he was a man of the people.  The Golden Globe nominations speak to the strong performances from the actors, but the movie itself skips around too much, and fails to present the viewer with a discernible sequence of events, and at times indulges in video footage without adequate explanation.

            Those of us who are contemporaries may not agree with the interpretation of recent history presented here, but we can all agree that the events of 9/11, and the subsequent Middle East military involvements, has changed the landscape for an entire generation.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association