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Most 2018 movies expected to be in the conversation come awards season have already opened in theaters, but there are a few stragglers looking to make waves late in the game, including Adam McKay's Vice. The director of The Big Short wrote and directed this film that stars Christian Bale as Vice President Dick Cheney. A biopic from an Oscar winner, starring a host of acclaimed actors, anchored by an unrecognizable lead, Vice has all the makings of a contender.
While Vice doesn't come out until Christmas Day, the film has screened and reviews are in to let us know if the film's pedigree all adds up to something special. For CinemaBlend's Eric Eisenberg, the answer is a resounding 'yes' as he gave the film 5 stars, praising the work of everyone involved, especially director Adam McKay. Eric said:
Vice is vital and important filmmaking, delivered in a unique and incredible way by an exceptional filmmaker.
After films like Anchorman, The Other Guys and Step Brothers, Adam McKay took on real world issues, while still employing his comedic chops in The Big Short. Audiences familiar with that film may find something similar with Vice, as it makes the business of bureaucracy entertaining and informative, as IGN's William Bibbiani explained:
Vice has been told with all the caustic wit and self-righteousness that we've come to expect from McKay, and if you're on his side, you'll probably marvel at his clever storytelling, the impressive performances of his huge ensemble cast, and the way he makes learning, for lack of a better word, 'fun.'
Christian Bale has become known for physical transformations and with Vice, he does so as an enigmatic and controversial figure. Many of the reviews indicate that this performance is indeed a career highlight for the actor, even if the film doesn't offer much insight into who Dick Cheney actually is. Collider's Matt Goldberg gave the film an A- and explained that the 'who' is not as important as the 'what':
Bale is uncanny as Cheney, completely slipping into a taciturn figure and making you forget there's even an actor there. But it's not in service of understanding Cheney as much as it's trying to paint a picture of what Cheney was involved in.
Those are all pretty positive reviews, but Vice is proving polarizing. While some reviewers were fans of Adam McKay's tone and approach, others found it to be more style than substance. Variety's Owen Gleiberman found the film lacking when it came to its main subject, as he explained:
As outrageous, and entertainingly horrible, as much of this is to watch, like a feature-length Saturday Night Live skit staged by the editors of Politico, none of it comes close to confronting the question I went into a 2-hour-and-12-minute film about Dick Cheney in ardent hopes of getting an answer to. Namely: Who is Dick Cheney?
Those who disliked the film seemed to take issue with it not so much on political grounds, but the fact that Vice is a preaching to the choir and having a laugh without offering any nuance or real insight. The Wrap's Candice Frederick
Maybe McKay wasn't really trying to indict anyone here, which is fine. But what's missing in this and even The Big Short is a strong filmmaker's voice. He's not saying anything, just poking fun.
Buoyed by a brilliant transformation by Christian Bale, it offers a smart and detailed overview of Cheney's elaborate ruse to exploit the country's highest authority, but undercuts its authority with crass and often clunky humor that overstates the nature of Cheney's villainy.
Clearly Vice is not for everyone, but to me it sounds like if you liked Adam McKay's The Big Short, you may find something to like here. You can judge for yourself when Vice opens in theaters on Christmas Day.
For all of next year's biggest movies, check out our 2019 Release Schedule.