Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Adam McKay|
|Written by||Adam McKay|
|Music by||Nicholas Britell|
|Edited by||Hank Corwin|
|Distributed by||Annapurna Pictures|
|Box office||$76.1 million|
Vice is a 2018 American biographical comedy-drama film written and directed by Adam McKay. The film stars Christian Bale as former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, with Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Justin Kirk, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, and Jesse Plemons in supporting roles. The film follows Cheney on his path to become the most powerful Vice President in American history. It is the second theatrical film to depict the presidency of George W. Bush, following Oliver Stone's W. (2008).
Vice was released in the United States on December 25, 2018, by Annapurna Pictures, and grossed $76 million worldwide. The film divided critics, as some lauded it as "cleverly biting", while others denounced it as "a clumsy display of political hatred", with McKay's screenplay and direction receiving both "scathing critiques and celebratory praise". Despite the polarized reception for the film itself, the performances, particularly those of Bale and Adams, received universal praise.
The film received numerous awards and nominations, with eight nominations at the 91st Academy Awards, including a Best Picture nomination and a win for Best Make-Up and Hairstyling. It also had a leading six nominations at the 76th Golden Globe Awards (including a nomination for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy), and six nominations at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards. For their performances, Bale, Adams, and Rockwell were nominated at all three shows, with Bale winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
Vice is narrated by Kurt, a fictitious veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. The film opens with Dick Cheney and other White House officials and staff responding to the September 11, 2001, attacks. The film then flashes back to Wyoming in 1963, where Cheney finds work as a lineman after his alcoholism led him to drop out of Yale University. After Cheney is stopped by a traffic cop for driving while intoxicated, his wife Lynne Cheney convinces him to clean up his life.
The film flashes forward to 1969 when Cheney finds work as a White House intern during the Nixon Administration. Working under Nixon's economic adviser, Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney becomes a savvy political operative as he juggles commitments to his wife and their daughters, Liz and Mary. Cheney overhears Henry Kissinger discussing the secret bombing of Cambodia with President Richard Nixon, revealing the true power of the executive branch to Cheney. Rumsfeld's abrasive attitude leads to him and Cheney being distanced from Nixon, which works in both men's favor; after Nixon's resignation, Cheney rises to the position of White House Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford while Rumsfeld becomes Secretary of Defense. The media later dubs the sudden shake-up in the cabinet as the Halloween Massacre. During his tenure, a young Antonin Scalia introduces Cheney to the unitary executive theory.
After Ford is voted out of office, Cheney runs to be representative for Wyoming. After giving an awkward and uncharismatic campaign speech, Cheney suffers his first heart attack. While he recovers, Lynne campaigns on her husband's behalf, helping him to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. During the Reagan Administration, Cheney supported a raft of conservative, pro-business policies favoring the fossil fuel industries. He also supported the abolishment of the FCC fairness doctrine which led to the rise of Fox News, Conservative talk radio, and the rising level of party polarization in the United States. Cheney next serves as Secretary of Defense under President George H. W. Bush during the Gulf War. Outside of politics, Cheney and Lynne come to terms with their younger daughter, Mary, coming out as lesbian. Though Cheney develops ambitions to run for president, he decides to retire from public life to spare Mary from media scrutiny.
During the presidency of Bill Clinton, Cheney becomes the CEO of Halliburton while his wife raises golden retrievers and writes books. A false epilogue claims that Cheney lived the rest of his life healthy and happy in the private sector and credits begin rolling, only for them to abruptly end as the film continues.
Cheney is invited to become running mate to George W. Bush during the 2000 United States presidential election. Recognizing that the younger Bush is more interested in pleasing his father than attaining power for himself, Cheney agrees on the condition that Bush delegates "mundane" executive responsibilities, such as energy, the military, and foreign policy, to him. As Vice President, Cheney works with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, legal counsel David Addington, Mary Matalin, and the Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, to exercise control of key foreign policy and defense decisions throughout Washington.
The film returns to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, as Cheney and Rumsfeld maneuver to initiate and then preside over the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the torture of prisoners. As the War on Terror mounts, Cheney continues to struggle with persistent heart attacks. The film also covers various events from his vice presidency, including his endorsement of the unitary executive theory, the Plame affair, the accidental shooting of Harry Whittington, and tensions between the Cheney sisters over same-sex marriage. Cheney's actions are shown to lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq, resulting in him receiving record-low approval ratings by the end of the Bush administration.
While narrating Cheney's tearful deathbed goodbye to his family after another hospitalization, Kurt is killed in a motor accident while jogging. In March 2012, his healthy heart is transplanted into Cheney. A few months later, Cheney acquiesces to his daughter Liz's saying she is opposed to same-sex marriage when she runs for a Senate seat in Wyoming, leaving Mary angry and upset. Liz later wins the election to her father's former Congressional position. At the end of the film, an irate Cheney breaks the fourth wall and delivers a monologue to the audience, stating that he has no regrets about anything he has done in his career.
A mid-credits scene depicts a focus group descending into chaos when a conservative panelist slams the film itself as biased and attacks a liberal panelist, while another younger panelist expresses her anticipation for the next The Fast and the Furious movie.
On November 22, 2016, it was announced that Paramount Pictures had come on board to handle the rights to a drama about Dick Cheney; the screenplay was to be written by Adam McKay, who would also direct. The film was produced by Plan B producers Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, along with McKay and his Gary Sanchez partners Will Ferrell and Kevin Messick. Bale signed on to play Cheney in April 2017, and gained 40 pounds (18 kg) for the role.
On August 22, Bill Pullman was cast as Nelson Rockefeller (though did not appear in the finished film), and a title, Backseat, was announced. It was later changed to Vice. On August 31, Sam Rockwell was cast as George W. Bush. In September 2017, Adam Bartley joined the cast.
Vice was released in both Canada and the United States on December 25, 2018 alongside Holmes & Watson. It was previously scheduled for release on December 14, 2018. The film opened in the U.K. on January 25, 2019, with most of Europe and Hong Kong following with February 2019 release dates.
Vice grossed $47.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $27.6 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $76 million, against a production budget of $60 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Holmes & Watson on Christmas Day and was projected to gross around $13 million from 2,378 theaters over its first six days. It made $4.8 million on its first day and $2.9 million on its second. The film went on to have a first weekend gross of $7.8 million, for a six-day total of $17.7 million. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film performed its "best on both coasts, versus America's heartland, although some theaters in markets including Dallas, Houston and Phoenix turned in respectable business". It then made $5.8 million in its second weekend and $3.3 million in its third.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 66% based on 341 reviews, with an average rating of 6.69/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Vice takes scattershot aim at its targets, but writer-director Adam McKay hits some satisfying bullseyes--and Christian Bale's transformation is a sight to behold." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score 61 out of 100, based on 54 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 72% and a 49% "definite recommend". The critical response to Vice made it one of the worst-reviewed films to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter, who named the film his favorite of 2018, wrote: "Across the board in Vice, everyone has risen to the occasion of their individual challenges, none of them easy, to collectively pull off a political satire that both provokes great laughs and hits home with some tragic truths". Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a "B-" and called it "messy but ambitious", writing: "Vice, in its rambunctious and unfocused manner, takes some ludicrous risks to make cogent points about Cheney's malicious intent--and how he put his plans into action". By contrast, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film 4/5 stars, and wrote that Bale "captur[es] the former vice-president's bland magnificence in Adam McKay's entertainingly nihilist biopic".
Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers praised the film, giving it a 4/5 rating and writing: "Adam McKay's flamethrowing take on Dick Cheney, played by a shockingly brilliant Christian Bale, polarizes by being ferociously funny one minute, bleakly sorrowful the next, and ready to indict the past in the name of our scarily uncertain future."
Stephanie Zacharek of Time gave the film a negative review, describing Vice as an "exhausting film that turns Dick Cheney into a cartoon villain".Ikon London Magazine, while praising the make-up artistry of Greg Cannom, noted that "the story reminds of a witch hunt".
Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post praised Bale's performance as Cheney but criticized the story pacing, awarding the film 2/5 stars. Hornaday had issues with the film's structure, writing that the film is "a mess, zigging here and zagging there, never knowing quite when to end, and when it finally does, leaving few penetrating or genuinely illuminating ideas to ponder". Similarly, Scott Mendelson of Forbes praised Bale's and Amy Adams's performances, but criticized the film as a "cinematic mediocrity".
Dick Cheney's daughter and Congresswoman Liz Cheney criticized Christian Bale for his portrayal of her father in Vice, remarking during a Fox & Friends interview that "he finally had the chance to play a real superhero, and he clearly screwed it up." Liz also responded negatively to Bale's controversial acceptance speech for winning the best actor in a comedy or musical Golden Globe for his portrayal of Dick Cheney, in which the actor thanked Satan for inspiring him to play the role of Cheney.
Vice was nominated for six Golden Globe Awards at the 76th annual ceremony, the most nominations of any film, with Bale winning for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film was subsequently nominated for eight awards at the 91st Academy Awards (winning Best Make-Up and Hairstyling), nine awards at the 24th Critics' Choice Awards (winning Best Actor and Best Actor in a Comedy for Bale), and six awards at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards (winning Best Editing). Additionally, the film was nominated for Cinema for Peace's Most Valuable Film of the Year award 2019.