- FROM ROUGHNECK TO STATESMAN: The most intriguing questions of “Vice” are not the “what,” or even the “who,” but the “how.”
Picture your reaction if, in 2000, someone told you that Christian Bale, the dude who’d just played Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho,” would in a few short years be wearing heavy makeup and 45 extra pounds starring as Dick Cheney in a likely Best Picture contender.
Oh, also imagine your reaction if someone explained that Cheney — known as a shrewd Washington operator even before a callow rich-kid president unwittingly made him the most powerful vice president in history — would churn up a trillion-dollar Iraq invasion based on false intelligence. That thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, would die on this pretext; that White House lawyers would argue for legal torture; that the ensuing political vacuum would feed terrorist networks in Iraq and Syria; and that an ongoing refugee crisis would spill into Europe, threatening the viability of NATO and the European Union, and the very future of Western-style democracy.
You’d be like, “Wait, who made that Darth Vader
Bale’s Cheney begins as a surly roughneck who in the ‘60s nearly drunk-drove himself out of his marriage to Lynn Cheney (Amy Adams), a Machiavellian power broker in her own right. Kicked out of Yale, he returned home to Wyoming and was pushing 30 by the time he clawed his way to Washington (via the University of Wisconsin) and linked up with a brash, voluble mentor in Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). They stayed close in the Nixon and Ford administrations; Cheney was elected to the House during the Reagan years and under
This is all recent enough history that the most intriguing questions of “Vice” are not the “what,” or even the “who,” but the “how.” How did Cheney go from a relatively staid mid-’90s life of running Halliburton to breaking the world and piping no-bid contracts to Halliburton to tape it back together? “Vice” supposes a Cheney who’s almost as surprised as we are that the cards landed as they did. Before the Secret Service wryly nicknamed him “Angler,” Cheney was a patient schemer, one who took on the grey, anonymous slog of government homework. In the candidate George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) he found an empty vessel: someone unconcerned with minutiae, who had coasted long enough on his family name and charisma that he was willing to cede the details to this quiet, soft-spoken elder statesman. Of course, we know what’s in the details.
McKay’s filmmaking style tilts flamboyant at times, with a