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Subtitled: Vice

Adam McKay

Adam McKay returns to our screens for the first time since 2015’s The Big Short, with a smart and witty film about former American Vice-President Dick Cheney. An unrecognisable Christian Bale gives a meaty performance as the bombastic figure whose 50-year career covered many of the most important moments in contemporary US politics.

"An unrecognisable Christian Bale gives a meaty performance..."

Having failed at Yale, Cheney returns home to Wyoming as a young man mostly interested in booze and cigarettes. Encouraged by his ambitious fiancée Lynne (Amy Adams), he pulls himself together and moves to Washington, D.C. to become a congressional intern, where he eventually befriends Republican insider Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). The film makes it clear that McKay is not a Cheney cheerleader and that the erosion of democratic principles; the manufacture of ‘alternative facts’; and the rise of an authoritarian executive branch so familiar now under Trump, had already come to pass when George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) was in office.

Disdain and fascination are frequent bedfellows though, and while Vice may present a critical view of Cheney, it is also surprisingly sympathetic at times. Remaining close to the facts (drawing on books by journalists Jane Mayer and Barton Gellman) McKay’s film gives us a portrait of a man who was able, through a combination of discipline, guile and luck, to bend reality to his will. With a tour-de-force performance by Bale at its core, Vice makes amply clear that Cheney was both impressive and ultimately quite terrifying.