The film Vice is the far from unbiased story of Dick Cheney the controversial former Vice President of the United States. It opens up with scenes of the horrendous aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States. There were scenes of disbelief, panic, and astonishment everywhere, including in the government offices. I wish they had included the video of President George W. Bush reading a story to kindergarten children in a Florida school. Bush was told of the attack by an aide, as he was reading, but Bush did not stop reading the story. He clearly was stunned, but had no idea what to do. So he just kept reading. I think this scene would have grounded this film.
The scenes that followed showed how the United States was maneuvered into attacking Iraq in response for reasons I will never understand. There really was no connection between Iraq and the attacks in the United States. Cheney however either believed in the mythic connection or just had it in for Saddam. The war had absolutely no discernable purpose. Iraq, unlike Afghanistan had little to do with the war on terrorism. But Cheney wanted that war. Cheney always promised that weapons of mass destruction would be found, but that promise proved flatulent.
According to the film, the war resulted in the death of 600,000 Iraqis, mainly civilians, and 3,000 to 4,000 Americans. Other estimates have varied from much less than this to even more. Actual reliable numbers are hard to find. Before the war even started credible sources estimated that as many as 500,000 people in the country died as a direct result of sanctions levied by the US led coalition forces.
The numbers vary greatly. What is true and what matters is that a lot of people died as a direct result of this war and it was a war without any logical purpose. Many of the deaths were suffered by children and other civilians. Of course, many wars have been initiated by elites for their own purposes, too often nefarious, while the price, the awful price, has been paid by grunts and their families. This alone is a darn good reason to be sceptical when the political leaders are braying for war.
Dick Cheney was instrumental in starting the war in Iraq. Many think that he was easily able to manipulate a young and inexperienced President to enter that war for reasons that remain opaque. Cheney was a former executive with Halliburton, a private American company that benefited greatly from contracts secured during and after the war.
The disproportion between Iraqi and American deaths was stark. It was a war by the richest, most powerful, and most technologically advanced country, and its allies, against a 3rd world country led by a cruel and vicious dictator. Few people in the United States were clamoring for this war. There were some extreme right-wingers who saw the corporate opportunities as a result of the war. Some of these were cronies of Cheney. This is the background to the film. I think it is important.
The film shows Cheney as the great manipulator hiding and really, lurking, in the shadows behind George W. Bush. Bush is shown frankly, and not entirely without justification, as a boy beside the man, Cheney. Vanity Fair reviewer Richard Lawson bluntly dismissed the basic approach of McKay, when he said McKay’s film “issues at a busy, self-satisfied blare”
I found the shotgun approach of the film too scattered for my taste. But there were some fascinating parts. For example, I really enjoyed the scene with young Cheney and his mentor Donald Rumsfeld in the US Congress. After getting introduced to the inner workings of the political machine Cheney asks Rumsfeld, “What is it that we believe in?” Rumsfeld is stunned at the absurdity of this question and he reacts by howling uncontrollably with laughter. What a stupid question.
I was amazed at how well Christian Bale, starring as Cheney, captured his physical dimensions. He evoked well his mannerisms. He looked liked Cheney. He sounded like Cheney. He was Cheney. Admirable as this performance though was, it is not enough to make a great film.
Near the end of the film Cheney turns away from the camera, it seems and speaks instead directly to us the viewers. He shows no remorse for what happened. Only pride. He really believes he did the right thing and he did it for our benefit. To keep us safe. Sort of like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. I was not convinced in that film; I was not convinced now
One o the things the film showed was how Cheney believed in the absolute power of the President. Sort of like the current President. This of course is deeply disturbing at this particular time in which America is led by a man who is the most narcissistic man I have ever seen, and who at the same time has very little knowledge, and is entirely satisfied with that state of affairs. Now that we have a much less thoughtful President than Bush (I never thought I would say that this was even possible), we must fear for America and even, the world. In my own life I have proved over and over again, that life is hard when you are stupid. But when the so-called leader of the Free World and most powerful man the world is stupid, we are all in deep trouble. Life will be hard.
Unusually, as the credits were rolling, and it appeared the movie was over, the film resumed after most of the audience had left. That was unfortunate for a short insert showed a focus group discussing the film, collapsed into a melee when a boldly opinionated right winger rejected the film as biased (which certainly could be true) and then ended up wrestling a feeble liberal on the panel. Meanwhile 2 other panellists discussed the most recent Fast and Furious movie completely ignoring the chaos beside them. You get the clear impression that this is where we are headed with our increasingly extremist society. Chaos. Thats sort of scary isn’t it?