Vice ★★★

First half is quite bad, but once 9/11 happens, everything gets better (there’s something I never thought I’d write). Mostly because Cheney pre-Bush is a less interesting figure. After the terror attacks he has more of an arc that fits more snugly into a Hollywood script. Vice definitely has flaws though; tonally it’s all over the place and can never quite decide how to present Cheney as the lead. McKay’s comedic schtick worked better in The Big Short, although there are a couple of moments here where they perfectly elucidate the dark absurdity permeating through the administration. In some ways, this isn’t dissimilar to BlacKkKlansman, since they’re both attacks on a past that has bled into our present, and they mostly have a distinct lack of subtly. Usually that’s an insult, but I thought it was important for Lee’s film to be direct, and the same is true here. It’s a messy film, which perhaps we should have expected considering the notorious secrecy of Cheney, but it’s a middle figure to a shit person and a shit administration who have blood on their hands. But as McKay shows at the end, Cheney probably doesn’t care. I don’t think any of these people, save Colin Powell maybe, even think about the wreckage they have left behind. The film reminded me of Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known. There’s the obvious Rumsfeld connection, but what I distinctly remember about that film was how easily Rumsfeld avoided blame, eschewed culpability, and flat out refused to give a single straight answer. The legacy that preceded him, the people he helped kill, it didn’t seem like he ever thought about it. The same seems true with Cheney. When you’re this powerful, maybe you don’t have to.

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