MovieGoerGeek’s review published on Letterboxd:
Full disclosure: I've never been fond of McKay. At all. Can't stand THE BIG SHORT.
Now, these probably were the first 50 minutes or so that I didn't play the "skip" button. I'll take that as a victory lap.
Having say that, it is a mystery to me that "The Academy" find his patchwork-style remotely interesting. I mean, his over-explained inserts is a technique that was commonly used in SILENT CINEMA in what Bazin has called "Attraction Montage". A juxtaposition of non-related shots which came in handy to give some sort of meaning to what words could not express in a sequence. Are you hearing this? SILENT CINEMA!!
McKay not only uses this ancient technique (meaningless since the SOUND is available) to underline his "satire" (thankfully, this is less than that and more of a character study/thriller) but adds voiceover narration just to complicate the embarrasing didacticism of his proceedings. Only in documentaries you would accept such things. And barely. So call McKay' style err... "soap operistic docudramas".
I'm not American, so for a while I was invested in this even though I knew his "ideas" were cluttering the story every now and then.
When he finally got to the joke of printing credits in the middle of the film, the story was half-cooked. So, wrong moment for that Mr. McKay.
What happens afterwards is even worse than it came before: Adding to the bad timing of the mid-film ending, there's the half-assed script that, for a moment, I couldn't believe my ears.
There's also the joke of the narrator: Who's this man and why he knows about Cheney so much? The outcome of the joke will land or not whether you are by THEN engrossed or embarrased. I'll take a middle point on that one.
It turns out that the inept young man, then turned responsible husband, then father ot two girls, then intern at the White House, then protegeé of Don Rumsfeld, then grey bureocrat during the Nixon term (all of this in the first hour) it's, without ellipsis, flashbacks or even dummy inserts and by the magical Midas Touch of the Voiceover "God-like" figure of this film (insert mocking voice) a CEO of Halliburton! Just like that.
Disregarding any respect for our "suspension of disbelief", McKay thinks he gets away with it. Did I have to open my laptop and see Cheney's Wikipedia page about what I was missing? What do you think? This former alcoholic, mumbling, taciturn, semi-inept anti-social, politician-wannabee is ALL OF A SUDDEN a prestiged man in one of the most important (and controversial) Oil Companies in America?
From then on, his heart failures, gay daughter and ostensible manipulations of Bush Jr. (to his consent, sure) the Pentagon, the White House Staff and the 9/11 events it's like it's coming from another "reel" (now that we're talking of old mediums).
The "lost" reel is lost. So, apart from McKay's usual didacticism and some early scene when he has "no proof" about certain thing that might have happened one way or another so he decided an important chat beteen him and his wife to be a self-conscious recitation of an After-School Special of Shakespeare... Well, I'll leave the rest to your imagination. What about what McKay does with Cheney's ascent to CEO?? No Shakespirian Monologue for that, Adam?
By the time Cheney gets all the power and he's like this Machevelian character McKey surely intended to portray in the first place, the movie has (sort of) lift-off a little again. Pity these egregious things won't leave my mind THAT easily.
Three decades ago, another filmmaker part charlatan, part good storyteller made a political film out of stock footage, FBI chit-chat in doorways, sinister encounters on park benches in DC and litigations in courtrooms.
It was cries and whispers about paranoid conspiracies theories. It didn't say anything new or revelatory but it was entertaining using what was at his visual and aural disposal: Endless archival footage, recordings, pictures, you name it, in order to stun us with such cumulative information and "Attraction Montage". It was called JFK. "He" was Oliver Stone.
Minus the misjudged "satire" he used it all. The Zapruder film, which showed the Assasination of Kennedy from an advantage position, was the real star of the film. A film within a film which became an instant hit for all of us dumbs or foreigners who knew so little about that historic moment.
Time for McKay to see that movie again. Perhaps he FINALLY realises he won't top that. Unless another "Zapruder" appears out of nowhere with some footage about his next targets. That's better than reciting Shakespirian drivel to fictionalize whatever real event "he has no proof of".