You either die a hero or live long enough to play Dick Cheney.
I’m sorry. I just couldn’t resist. But that genuinely was my first thought after watching the trailer for Vice, Adam McKay’s political satire about the life of our embittered former Vice President who entered office with a 63% approval rating and left it with just 13%. Here, he’s played by a nearly unrecognizable Christian Bale, who has yet again thrown medical caution to the wind and changed his body shape to play the bulky Cheney. Either that or McKay just paired him with some fantastic makeup, prosthetics and costuming people.
It’s probably both. I don’t really know.
Doesn’t matter. Point is: Bale sure looks the part.
He’s joined by Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, both perfect casting choices, particularly Rockwell as Bush. I predict this will film give us plenty of Memes from his performance.
In the wake of the, let’s call it, “dissatisfaction” with Trump, there has been a tendency among some to not only miss Obama but also Bush. At least their presidencies marked eras which operated according to more traditional rules, military industrial complex and state’s rights versus bleeding heart liberal ideals and all that. If there was corruption, at least it wasn’t so blatant. How quickly we forget that Bush ended his second term as one of the least popular Presidents in history, with an approval rating plunging as low as 19%. Dick Cheney’s approval, which never soared as high as Bush’s, not even after 9/11, dipped even lower, down to 13%. That whole “he shot a man in the face” thing sure didn’t help.
Making matters worse, however, is the general impression that during the Bush years we had a White House run more by the Vice President than President. Bush was the Wizard, Cheney the man behind the curtain pulling the strings. Adam McKay, the former Anchorman director turned political commentator after The Big Short, looks set to commit this theory to film, offering up a biopic of the only Vice President ever compared – and not entirely jokingly, either – to Darth Vader.
This means both our 43rd President (GW) and 46th Vice President (Cheney) have received the biopic treatment now – Oliver Stone’s W. and McKay’s Vice. I don’t know that any other Administration can make such a claim. That didn’t work out so well for W., which was released as Bush was leaving Office and flopped both with critics and audiences.
Maybe the passage of time and accumulation of more knowledge of what really went on behind the scenes will grant Vice more cultural cache. At the very least, McKay is certainly more mainstream with his impulses than Stone.
Of course, with the way First Man was almost instantly fed into our toxic culture wars as well as the presence of a similar political movie aiming for Oscar Gold – Hugh Jackman’s Gary Hart pic The Front Runner – Vice might struggle to break through the clutter. I imagine it will mostly be seen by people who already subscribe to the theory that Dick Cheney was our Shadow President. Still, with that cast and that director coming off The Big Short it should be interesting.
Vice opens in limited release on Christmas Day.