First Hit: I liked this oddly created film about a powerful yet enigmatic man who really ran our country for a period of time.
Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) powerfully found his way into and as a guiding influence in our government especially during the President George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) years.
The scene that points out his guile was when during the transition from Clinton to Bush, when he, not only had is standard office in the Senate (as a tie-breaker vote), but also had his team find an office in the House side of Congress (that’s where the money bills are created), in the Defense Department, and other places in the seat of our government. He moved in and out of these offices to wield the influence of the Executive branch where ever he could.A
He believed in the Unitary executive theory whereas the President possesses the power to control the entire executive branch of government. Sort of like Nixon’s belief when interviewed by David Frost; “If the President does it, it isn’t against the law.” Cheney believed he, as the lever puller for George Bush, he could do no wrong and nothing he did was illegal. A couple of his feats include; torture of captured combatants, invading Iraq when there was no proof that the country had anything to do with September 11 attack on world trade towers.
It was a focus group that indicated that the American public wanted a country as an enemy and not a concept (Al-Qaeda), so we invaded Iraq, because both Bush, H. W. Bush, and Cheney had wanted to this for a long time. This is just a smattering of the bold divisive actions Cheney took as VP.
We see his earlier years as a college drunken mess. His stint as a lineman in Wyoming. Drinking and fighting in bars after work. His comeuppance by his wife Lynne (Amy Adams), who said after one drunken bout, you either shape up or ship out.
He does shape up and becomes an intern in Congress working for Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) – (the truth is that he worked for Congressman William A. Steiger), then into the White House, eventually rising to Chief of Staff for Gerald Ford (Bill Camp). Then he was elected to Wyoming’s only Congressional seat. This was followed by becoming Secretary of Defense for George H. W. Bush and oversaw Desert Storm, which he believed didn’t go far enough.
The film shows many of these events with sincerity while mixing in scenes with a level of irreverence, and also scenes of Cheney fly fishing in Wyoming. But watching Dick and George’s mistake in both leaving Iraq while pumping up a radical person, resulted in ISIS (Desh). These mistakes are Bush’s and Cheney’s legacy.
Like with the Big Short, director Adam McKay mixes his film’s stories up in ways that various impacts on people. For me this approach was effective, but it was Bale’s Cheney that was amazing.
Bale was Cheney. I believed I was seeing the real guy on the screen. Nothing he did seemed out of character with whom the public knew something about but not how the man thought. And even with this film, most of Cheney’s screen time is watching him think. He wasn’t an impulsive man, that’s clear. Adams was fantastic as Lynne Cheney. Her drive and power over Dick were clear and direct. Carell as Rumsfeld was strong. I never got much of an impression from the real Rumsfeld through his brief public appearances so I’ve nothing to compare this performance to. Rockwell was wonderfully cast as George W. Bush. His breezy, thoughtless manner comes through just as one saw the real Bush in public. Justin Kirk as Scooter Libby was good. LisaGay Hamilton played Condoleezza Rice one of the people Cheney didn’t see eye to eye with. Tyler Perry played Colin Powell who reluctantly spoke at the UN for the bombing of Iraq, although he never believed it was the right thing to do. Alison Pill played Cheney’s older gay daughter Mary whom is stood behind by her family early on in the film and then when the younger daughter Liz (Lily Rabe) runs for office, Dick turns against Mary’s lesbian ways so that Liz can get elected as the Representative of Wyoming. Power was what drove Dick in life and not even family got in the way. Adam McKay wrote an interesting script that reflects the way he likes to create a movie. Dancing across the information while willing to mix it up in ways that are different. I happen to like it.
Overall: The acting is superb and the way this story is told is probably not everyone’s cup of tea.