Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 2018. Annapurna Pictures, Gary Sanchez Productions, Plan B Entertainment. Screenplay by Adam McKay. Cinematography by Greig Fraser. Produced by Megan Ellison, Will Ferrell, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay, Kevin J. Messick, Brad Pitt. Music by Nicholas Britell. Production Design by Patrice Vermette. Costume Design by Susan Matheson. Film Editing by Hank Corwin. Golden Globe Awards 2018. Washington Film Critics Awards 2018.
Adam McKay, bolstered by critical raves and an Oscar for his film about the economic meltdown, has moved closer to the nation’s highest seat of power in his latest presumably satirical expose. Christian Bale puts on weight and swathes his face in prosthetics to play Dick Cheney, former alcoholic telephone-wire repairman whose ambitious wife (Amy Adams) smacks him into shape and propels him towards success in politics. A comfortable job as an oil company executive gives him the opportunity to live his remaining days in peace and prosperity, but Cheney can’t resist the offer when fellow ex-drunk George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell in what looks like Sam Waterston’s face) invites him to be his running mate for the 2000 election. The story that follows is familiar, from Bush’s controversial win to the horrors of 9/11 through to the invasion of Iraq, but what this film wants you to know is that Cheney, despite his low-toned expressions and magnificent poker face, is actually a power-hungry monster who thrives on mayhem. What it also intends to reveal is that despite the speeches being given by W, Cheyney is also behind all the most explosive moments of the Bush years, and what this movie is unaware of is just how not surprising that is. Bale has a good time playing a man so in control of his outward emotions that he can barely raise his voice above a mutter when announcing that he’s having yet another heart attack; McKay, however, has no idea what to do with the contradiction of so sanguine a man who could easily rip a replacement heart out of you without fluttering an eyelid, seeming so boring yet in control of so much manipulation and destruction. Instead the director cuts away to a series of wink-wink montages whenever the film threatens to actually examine the people it’s about, playing like an overlong Funny or Die skit in which the actors are trapped somewhere being parody and sincerity and end up with a film that is neither funny nor smart.