Vice doesn’t want to humanize Dick Cheney. So instead, it (maybe) demonizes America.
In which we argue about Adam McKay’s controversial new movie.
Few movies in 2018 have been more divisive than Vice, writer-director Adam McKay’s tale of the modern Republican Party as concentrated in the person of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Early reviews from critics were sharply divided between those wholoved the film and those who despisedit — as well as plenty who gave it mixedreviews.
I will say that when I left the theater, I felt both righteously angry and desperately sad. I had spent roughly 90 minutes resisting Vice, wondering if it was secretly terrible, and then somewhere around that mark (roughly coinciding with the Iraq material, about 90 minutes into the movie’s 132-minute running time), something just clicked for me and clicked for me hard. I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I was in the immediate wake of the screening — it wouldn’t quite make my top 10 for the year, and if you’d asked me right after I watched it, I would have sworn it would. Its flaws are more readily apparent to me now.
But I also found something haunted at the movie’s core. I read Vice less as a political screed than as a character study, of Cheney and of the country he helped lead. It has some elements that I think are actively, even aggressively bad, and I hate that literally the last thing viewers see is the worst moment of the film. I totally understand why some critics hate this movie. But for me, it worked in all its messy excess.