Vice – 7.8

Watching this, I was two-thirds ashamed to be an American, with our recent history running from Richard Nixon through the phony justifications of the Iraq invasion, but one-third proud to live in a culture that could produce such a clever, popular takedown of a living public figure. Some caricatures misfired – especially Steve Carrell’s Donald Rumsfeld – but I appreciated the effort to match actor with historical figure, like Eddie Marsan for Paul Wolfowitz. Most of the plot was familiar, but the light it concentrated on certain facts, such as Cheney’s sweetheart deals with Halliburton and the lack of a background check when he selected himself for the vice-presidency, still made me cringe. Christian Bale was amazing, but I doubt his Oscar chances: some voters must be Republicans; some will say it was impersonation, not acting; and others will just be so repulsed that they won’t want to see Cheney/Bale get any awards. I can see why this movie is not for everyone: it is tendentious, flip – one reviewer called in “meanspirited” – and treats very serious matters like a Doonesbury cartoon; but director Adam McKay’s storytelling style was original and consistent, and I laughed when I wasn’t cringing.

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