Vice: A Review
So, did that actually happen?
That’s the first question you’ll ask yourself when you leave the cinema, eyes still adjusting back to the glaring day-time light you forgot about while you were sat in the dark for a few hours.
Dick Cheney; his Wikipedia page cites him as the most powerful Vice President in American history- so that must be true, right? Well if this film is anything to go by, that statement is absolutely right.
Cheney is presented to us like a Wolf of Wall Street cast member. He is slick, cunning and more ruthless than you could imagine. Think Jordan Belfort- if he hadn’t been arrested for fraud. Larger than life, Cheney, played by Christian Bale, whose transformation and performance in this movie is attention worthy, invites us to rally behind him and hate him simultaneously. Cheney is portrayed as an awful man, who would happily sacrifice one daughter’s happiness for the success of another.
Written and directed by Adam McKay, the film conjures the image of Cheney as all-seeing. Essentially, he is the president and George W. Bush is just a front man. Cheney controls everything, from the invasion of Iraq, to helping disband the ‘death tax’ that actually only taxed a very wealthy minority's inheritance. Seems crazy right?
Well, like most films purporting to be based on historical events, a lot of what we see is inferred and, as any good English teacher will tell you, an inference is an opinion and not always what happened or what was intended.
Some of what we see on screen is true; it is largely agreed that Cheney gave the orders to shoot down any planes that were considered a threat during the 9/11 attacks, though Bush is said to have agreed to this. Also, Cheney leveraged more political power as president than most, through strategic staff placements and his array of previous political experience.
However, that is not to say that the portrait McKay builds of Cheney is accurate, though it is certainly entertaining. As the journalist Jon Greenberg points out, Rumsfeld was largely involved in discussions regarding Iraq and noted ‘ideas of what might trigger an attack’ like weapons of mass destruction. Now, considering Rumsfeld’s long history with Cheney, the Vice President was probably aware of what was happening, however, the film’s portrayal of Cheney brashly convincing Bush to invade Iraq glosses over the facts.
Now while the film does take artistic licence with many of the scenes, including the private discussions of Dick and Lynn Cheney; Lynn is played by Amy Adam’s who is sensational as the driven, crafty public figure. The film is actually funny, in an awful and shocking kind of way, it reminds us as an audience how cautious we should be when voting and making decisions because misinformation is everywhere. As the film highlights with a highly fanciful Shakespearian discussion between the Cheneys in bed, we will never know what happens behind closed doors.
In political offices and private homes, everything is confidential. We are only prithee to a small amount of information on an issue and we should all be aware of this when voting and taking political stances.