Reel Talk

Vice and the Long Con

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Every year, around the end of the year, I get to enjoy a mad-dash to watch all of the prestige films that get dumped in a town like Denver all at once. Movies that have been on my list all year, but that all get released within a week of each other, making it near impossible to finish my “Favorite of the Year” list without having some massive gaps. I did pretty well this year, seeing just about everything I wanted to see by the end of the year. The only real gap in my viewing was Vice, the new film from Adam McCay. Because, based entirely on how much I really loved The Big Short, I figured I’d really like this movie. The idea that Adam McCay was going to tell the ridiculous story of Vice President Dick Cheney, as completely as possible, was pretty fun. Especially after seeing that first trailer, which seemed the sell us all on the fact that this movie was going to be a hoot. But then reviews started to come out. And, they weren’t kind. Which meant that I allowed this film to slide, not taking the time to see it in 2018 so it could be considered for my end of the year list. And, that was a good call, because this movie wouldn’t have stood a chance. It’s no Big Short. Which is a bummer, because this movie had a whole lot of potential.

The film, as you may have guessed, tells the story of Dick Cheney, the 46th Vice President of the United States. It’s as accurate a portrayal of one of the most powerful political leaders of the modern era as could be told, because Cheney is an infamously private and secretive man. So, the films does everything it can to recap the man’s life, with as much detail as possible. And, I do mean recap. The film roughly has the formula of a biopic, but it mainly seems like a highlight reel. Rather than focusing on a specific time of Dick Cheney’s life, the movie jumps all around, complete with narration from the man whose heart Cheney eventually received in a transplant, telling us about the man’s many exploits. It roughly goes in chronological order, beginning with his life as ne’er-do-well in Wyoming, before deciding on a life in politics. He ends up getting an internship in the White House during the Nixon Administration where he quickly finds himself under the wing of congressman Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is an economic adviser of President Nixon, and he helps Cheney understand the power of politics, and the way to play the game.

And, when Nixon inevitably is forced out of the Presidency, Cheney and Rumsfeld end up pushing themselves even further into the power structure of the Ford Administration. Cheney makes it up to the Chief of Staff, and enjoys a pretty cushy life, planning his future political machinations. Unfortunately, the unforeseeable occurs, and Ford doesn’t get a second term. So, forced to stand on his own two legs, Cheney, with the large help of his wife Lynne, becomes the congressman to Wyoming, forging his own political career. He does very well in this role, earning himself quite a bit of stature in the Republican Party through the Reagan Administration. But, eventually he finds himself out of politics, ready to live a quiet life as CEO of massive oil conglomerate Halliburton. But, things change when Cheney is approached by George W Bush, who is hoping to make Cheney his running mate, lending some real credentials to his inexperienced campaign. And, sensing a power-grab, Cheney agrees. Under the condition that he have almost complete control of the government, essentially becoming the real President. Which, goes well at first, giving Cheney basically unlimited power. But, after the September, 11th attacks things really kicked into high gear. Cheney started taking complete control of the government, pushing America into two wars in a manner that would benefit the oil companies of America, earning everyone quite a bit of money. They cause a massive amount of problems, but make out like bandits, leaving an incredibly unpopular presidency almost completely unscathed, filthy rich, and having potentially dismantled the integrity of the Presidency for all time.

 

 

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When I first started this website, I tried to keep my personal politics out of things. This was a place to talk about my thoughts on pop culture, not politics. But, as time has gone on, I found that increasingly impossible to do so. I’m a left-leaning individual, and most of that political awareness came of age in the tale-end of the Bush Administration and the beginning stages of the Obama Administration. It’s when I started being able to vote, and decided it was my duty to learn about politics and become an informed citizen. And, through my understanding of politics and my own personal beliefs, I became a liberal. And, over the years, I’ve only gone further left. So, you’d think that this movie would be cat-nip to me. As time has gone on, as more information about the Bush Administration, and Cheney’s role in shaping the world in particular, it’s become increasingly apparent that it was an absurdly terrible time for America, and most of these people should be in prison for a whole variety of reasons. So, I figured I would be on this movie’s wavelength. But, it ended up having nothing really to say other than “man, aren’t these Republican politician’s being corrupt?” And, yeah. That’s what they do. The movie just didn’t have enough to say to stay interesting. It used that manic editing style of The Big Short, but with like a tenth of the opinions. The movie felt like a slideshow more than anything, giving us very little insight into Cheney or the situation. It was like skimming Wikipedia, and in a way that left me with no new information.

Because, unfortunately, this is how things always are. That’s the one thing that I took away from this movie, but it wasn’t anything I really learned through it. Over the last hundred years or so it appears that we’ve become stuck in a pretty never-ending cycle. America switches between Democratic and Republican rule every few Administrations, and when Republicans are in charge they find new and ridiculous ways to rob the country blind, and when the Democrats are in charge they spend the entire time fixing things and getting sidelined out of actually getting anything accomplished, all while the Republicans plan their next coup to get in charge and ruin things again. This film looked at the way that during the Nixon and Ford Administrations people like Cheney and Rumsfeld planned the future, setting people up to become more important when they come in power again. And, when they get the keys to the kingdom again, their sleeper agents are ready to pop up and help things get even worse. This movie shows us that Cheney and his crew led the country into war with Iraq for the good of oil companies and defense contractors, all while setting up ISIS to be the next excuse to continue the war and continue making the money. We’re trapped in a never ending con job, and there seems to be almost no way out. But this movie didn’t  really have anything to say about that, other than it’s bad. The performances were decent, but it was pretty wasted by just watching a clipshow of the most objectionable things that Dick Cheney did in his career, all without any real insight or opinion. Things are bad, they’ve been bad for a long time, and they’re going to be bad for a while later. We all know that though. We live it every day.

 

Vice was written and directed by Adam McCay and released by Annapurna Pictures, 2018.

 

 

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