Dec 18, 2018

Bale as Cheney is worth seeing in an otherwise spot-on docudrama showing the devastating historical impact of the vice president.


Grade: B+

Director: Adam McKay (Anchorman)

Screenplay: McKay

Cast: Christian Bale (The Fighter, American Hustle), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2 hr 12 min

By: John DeSando

“Whaddaya say?... I want you to be my VP. I want you, you're ma vice.” George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell)

And so it goes. In the highly-entertaining and informative docudrama Vice, Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) becomes the most powerful vice president in the history of the US presidency. As writer/director Adam McKay plays it, some humor applies because Bush’s childlike persona evokes smiles even in dire circumstances such as the invasion of Iraq.

In its documentary element, Vice is an accurate history of the surprising rise of both Cheney and Bush, but the story is Cheney’s. From his drunken early days to his sobering by wife Lynne, Cheney is nothing if not an adaptor with a highly-developed big-picture ambition, a politician who can see the gift that 9/11 gave to those like himself with global ambitions. Bale’s impersonation of Cheney is stunning in both physical transformation and personality heft, an imitation that carries the personal stamp of an outsize personality.

In the personal element, Amy Adams’s Lynne is just as smart and adaptable as I remember, a force behind her husband in a time when women could gain power mostly through their husbands. Lynne would publish books on American history and weigh in at pillow-talk time with sage reactions to Dick’s challenges.

Crisply photographed and edited, McKay’s  sometimes-satirical story is  aided by an occasional tongue in cheek. Like our current time, if some governmental actions seem absurd, they are. When Vice runs credits midway, our confusion is alleviated when the story shows Cheney accepting an offer to visit the White House to discuss the vice presidency. In other words, his political life is by no means over.

Admittedly, at times the film moves too fast over history, lacking depth other docudramas embrace. The audience might have been better with more interaction between Cheney and Bush. Such good acting, when the chemistry is there, should be expanded:

Dick Cheney: “I believe... we can make this work.”

George W. Bush: “Hehehe!”

To teach and delight is a worthwhile motto for any filmmaker. Adam McKay fulfills that promise.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at