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Vice (2018)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/2/2019

All Ratings out of
Audio: ˝

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/24/2019

Getting older can change your relationship with many things, including movies.  For example, the “In Memoriam” segment at the Oscars has a little more of an impact each year, as you are actually familiar with the people who have died.  Similarly, the way in which you view documentaries can change.  In the past, everything in these films was new information.  As you advance in years, the odds increase that you are going to watch a documentary about something that you know about or lived through.  Therefore, the emotional response will be stronger.  Vice, the story of Dick Cheney, is not a documentary, but it’s close enough to fit that description.


Vice tells the life story of infamous politician Dick Cheney (Christian Bale).  Beginning with his days as a young man in Wyoming, we follow Dick and his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams), to Washington.  There, Cheney falls under the tutelage of Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), and eventually gets his own office in the Nixon White House.  Following this, he was elected to the House of Representatives.  Under President George H.W. Bush, Cheney was Secretary of Defense.  Following this, Cheney was ready to step away from politics, that is, until he was asked to run as Vice-President with George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell).  This victory opened the doors to a new world of power, as Cheney set out to change the face of politics from behind the scenes.


Vice is Director Adam McKay’s follow-up project to his brilliant 2015 film The Big Short, and he incorporates much of the same style here.  As with is his last outing, McKay proves that he’s not afraid to shake-up the world of serious docu-dramas, as he often goes off the beaten path to help make the film more relatable and to increase the audiences understanding of some of the more dense material.  Whereas in The Big Short he had the likes of Margot Robbie explaining how home loans work, here McKay has enlisted Jesse Plemons to play Kurt, an everyman who serves as the film’s narrator and who helps to fill in the gaps in the Cheney’s timeline.  We also get moments like the scene where Dick and Lynne begin to recite Shakespeare to show that this is not your usual Oscar-caliber movie.


Recognizing McKay’s stylistic approach to Vice brings up one of the key issues with the movie.  When watching The Big Short for the first time, one is amazed at the audacious nature of how the movie tells its story.  But, with Vice, we have the sense of a movie which is simply copying The Big Short.  Sure, some of it works, like the fake ending which comes about halfway through the movie, but there’s no doubt that the novelty of the style has worn off. 


And, as noted in the introduction, the familiarity of the material also hurts the film.  I must admit that I knew nothing about Cheney’s early years in government, so the first half of the film is certainly intriguing.  But, once he takes over the W. Bush White House, many of the facts definitely rang a bell.  And, this just brought back a series of unpleasant emotions.  Clearly, McKay likes to uncover secrets of which the general public are not aware, and we get a lot of that here, as we learn how Cheney manipulated the system in order to give the Republicans more power and to benefit the rich and powerful.  However, whereas The Big Short unveiled a world that was new to most viewers, much of Vice is pulled from past headlines.


The final piece of Vice which must be examined is Christian Bale’s performance.  There’s no doubt that this actor throws himself into roles and his conviction here is clear.  And, it must be agreed that the generous amount of prosthetics make him look like Cheney.  But, the question must be asked – Is he acting or is he doing a Cheney impression?  Rarely did I question that if what I was seeing was something that Cheney actually did or said, but I always felt like I was watching someone in a Cheney mask.


Obviously, Vice is a mixed-bag.  The film does a nice job of chronicling Dick Cheney’s life and career, and it’s often a challenging film, as it shows that he occasionally struggled with the ethics of a decision, thus only making him 99% monster.  However, the film’s style comes off as reductive and freshness of the material makes it hard to take at times.  Vice is certainly worth seeing, but don’t expect something which has the impact of The Big Short.


Vice doesn’t paint a flattering portraying of any of its characters on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 4.0 Mbps.  I don’t know if I got a defective copy, but there are some horrible issues with what I saw.  There is mild grain on the image throughout, but during some scenes, there is a static-like grain which renders the film nearly unwatchable.  I tried the Disc on two players and got the same effect.  Outside of these moments, the image is sharp and clear, showing the kind of image which we’d expect from a new movie.  The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  Being a docudrama, we don’t get a ton of notable effects here, but the wartime scenes deliver strong bass from explosions and some nicely detailed surround action.  The party sequences offer front channel effects which highlight sounds coming from offscreen.


The Vice Blu-ray Disc contains a small handful of extras.  “Gaming the System: The Making of Vice” (36 minutes) is a detailed featurette which offers interviews with the cast and creative team.  McKay leads the conversation, delving into the approach to the material, the responsibility of telling a true story, and the techniques used by the actors.  The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 17 minutes.  This includes an alternate opening which runs nearly 11 minutes and plays like more of a stand-alone short film.  We also get a Blues Brothers-like musical number which must have been cut due to its odd tone.  “The Music of Power” (5 minutes) actually focuses on the musical number, taking us on-set to see how it was shot.  The extras are rounded out by a STILL GALLERY and a THEATRICAL TRAILER. 

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long