The Most Entertaining Tornado – Dick Cheney’s Biography, VICE

By: Maja Bay Overgaard

As my friend and I left the cinema after viewing the prescreening of the newly Golden Globe winning movie, VICE. The consensus was clear: the movie was a fun time, but unlikely to be a 2019 favourite.

The movie is a biography based on the, as the movie stresses, VERY secretive life of former US vice president Dick Cheney – don’t worry if the name doesn’t ring a bell for you, the movie will do a wonderful job of filling you in. As the movie follows Cheney’s life we get an understanding of the intensive and influential inner workings of the White House. The movie serves both as a story of one man’s rise to become one of the world’s most powerful people from being a small town worker from Wyoming, as well as a portrait of the American political climate.

Undoubtedly, the most discussed part of the movie was the performance from Christian Bale in the role of Dick Cheney. This is the performance that went on to win a Golden Globe, the other day for best actor in a comedy/musical (this category is weird, which is why I don’t really trust the golden globes – but that’s neither here nor there). But expectations were high nonetheless, especially considering the performances we usually get from Bale. In my opinion, he was excellent as he captured the serious yet witty man that slowly becomes more and more absorbed by the cruel world of politics. My only issue was with the way he spoke at times became too caricatured to the point where it would take me out of the movie – but we can probably attribute that to a British man imitating a southern accent.

A little side note which I found very impressive was the way that they aged Cheney (or Bale) throughout the movie, which was VERY convincing. However, I found that unfortunately his wife, played by Amy Adams, looked significantly younger and was barely aged throughout the movie – despite them being approximately the same age in real life. Frustrating and took me out of the movie at times, but ultimately a minuscule detail.

As mentioned before, the movie follows almost all of Cheney’s life as well as the world around him. This results in a LOT of plot in “only “ two hours. On top of this, with politics being a fairly dense subject, it resulted in the movie being very heavy and hard to follow at times – I was at least thankful for my Global Politics classes! The amount of information presented and pacing was fairly similar to Adam McKay’s other project,The Big Short”, which was equally hard to follow. As much as I am sure that many details had to be left out, I wouldn’t have minded if more plot points were left out to make the movie a little less crowded. Especially considering that the most significant part of his life, his vice presidency, was first introduced in the last third of the movie.

However, the thing that I more than anything would’ve loved for them to have done was to have left out was the use of a narrator. The narrator is in the form of a character that we get presented to in a B-plot to the main story. No, actually, the narrator’s story is so insignificant that I’m inclined to call it a Z-plot. Normally I find narration incredibly cheap and annoying as, unless it’s incorporated with purpose, is a surefire way of breaking one of cinemas ground rules: show, don’t tell. The narrator consistently interrupts dialogue and scenes in order to over-explain things. And furthermore, the narrator’s plotline was awkwardly set up throughout the entire movie and the payoff, in the end, was very dissatisfying. However, my teeny positive point would be that I liked the way he incorporated in order to show the life of “the average Joe” but for the most part, he was an infuriating addition.  

Not only do we get the narrator, but we also get a lot of text constantly explaining what is happening. The most annoying was the overused movie-trope, in the beginning, telling the audience that this movie is, in fact, “based on a true story”. While more than anything this a pet peeve for me, and likely doesn’t bother other people as much, I just get annoyed at this fact is something that everyone was aware of when they went to see the movie, and it just feels cheesy.

However, the text is used as part of the very characteristic fast pace editing of this movie, and multiple times is it used effectively for humour. While this movie undoubtedly is a drama/biography, it definitely has a lot of effective comedic elements –  often used as satire. The movie mocks the political climate, and even mocks its own genre. It constantly breaks genre tropes and subverts expectations, which, to my surprise, actually made me laugh out loud (which is fairly uncommon when I watch movies). My only issue is that the humour was, again, distracting, as well as redundant. The same editing tricks and jokes are reused and could get tiring at the end.

Other than the flashy editing, the movie, in terms of cinematography was nothing, to call home about. Aside from a few shots in the start sequence, the lighting was pretty flat. And other than the title music, the score failed to add anything to the movie. In fact, I found myself wishing they had added a more interesting soundtrack to lighten up the very dialogue-heavy scenes.

But although in this review I have been quick to point out of all of my issues with the movie, I ultimately found it a very good movie to start the year up with, and I left the cinema satisfied (but with a headache as I was overwhelmed by the tornado of plot stimuli and flashy images). I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoyed “The Big Short” or people who like political satire or just dramas in general.

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