(Insert meta joke that I’m not clever enough to come up with on my own here)
Synopsis: The epic story of how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world as Vice-President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today. (Annapurna Pictures)
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Steve Carell
Writer: Adam McKay
Director: Adam McKay
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 132mins
Every December, there’s always that one, big awards season movie that doesn’t run the festival circuit and gets an insane amount of anticipation through its various nominations in the critics circle awards. This year, that movie is Adam McKay’s Vice. After his turn in goofy studio comedies throughout the 2000’s, then came The Big Short in 2015, an innovative drama that took many bold creative liberties. This is a big reason why many people have been looking forward to Vice, in addition to the supposedly transformative performances of its entire ensemble cast. Although Vice possesses some of the creativity of The Big Short, it unfortunately relies a little too much on those ideas, making for a film that feels a little saturated as a result.
It’s worth mentioning that the script and story are where most of its problems lie while many other aspects are actually quite well done. For a story of this type, especially considering the signature style of McKay himself, one might expect a frenetic and fast paced film. That’s not at all what we get here – the film is also a slow burn, and unfortunately, the truly captivating moments are few and far between. That is not to say that this is not an exciting film, it’s just not as exciting based on what we know from McKay and how the trailers made it out to be.
Another big thing here is the clever, meta storytelling devices. For the most part, these are supposed to drive the film, but after a while it just becomes too redundant and obvious to rely on. Sure, its funny at first to make fun of biopic conventions and to have the occasional fourth wall break, but when you are doing that for the 38th time, it kind of starts to feel stale.
The performances here are quite strong and are what helps save this film compared to what McKay brings to the table. Even though a lot of the performance comes from the voice and the prosthetics and makeup, Bale as Dick Cheney still impresses, showing that he is one of the strongest actors working today. Adams is also pretty good as Lynn Cheney and despite the fact she isn’t doing anything new, it doesn’t detract from her being a fantastic performer. Other highlights include Carell, as the wildly cocky Donald Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell, bringing another great supporting performance post Three Billboards, as George W. Bush, and Jesse Plemons in a role that plays heavily in film’s twist.
Vice is definitely a good film, it just isn’t necessarily the one you may expect. This is much more of an ensemble piece than director’s cinema, and while that isn’t a terrible thing, it could’ve done a great job at being both, which is a major reason as to why this is another disappointing awards season bait film.
*Vice opens in theatres on December 25th*