After Adam McKay took on the US real estate bubble three years ago and turned it into a damn entertaining cinema satire in “The Big Short”, he is leaving for his new film VICE – THE SECOND MAN now similar. Only this time he takes a look behind the scenes of the political circus in the United States. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
He was considered one of the most powerful US vice presidents of all time: Dick Cheney (Christian Bale). But it wasn’t always like that: First he makes a living as a drunken worker, then his wife (Amy Adams) threatens to leave him because of his drinking problem. It’s a much-needed wake-up call because after he comes into contact with US politics for the first time through an internship, he seems to have found his true calling. Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) introduces him to the ways of the government apparatus, where he begins his career as a politician. He even rises to become Secretary of Defense alongside George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and under his father (John Hillner). But this meteoric rise to one of the most influential politicians in the world is accompanied by (wrong) decisions that continue to shape the country to this day…
Movie explanation of the ending
This Adam McKay is hard to predict. For a long time, the Philadelphia-born filmmaker was the creative mind behind all sorts of Will Farrell productions or worked as a director and writer for various episodes of “Saturday Night Live,” earning himself a fabulous reputation in the comedy scene. He took this with him when his name first came up in 2014 in connection with a film about the US financial crisis. A comedy specialist as the driving force behind such complex material? Can this work well? But “The Big Short” didn’t just go well. He developed into one over the months the Frontrunner in the awards season, ended up winning the Oscar for Best Screenplay and was nominated in four other categories. For McKay it was the infamous jump from entertainment to highbrow cinema, which many attempt and which just as many fail. Only with one difference: McKay has always remained true to himself as a director and author. This doesn’t just apply to “The Big Short”, for whose satirical elaboration the filmmaker resorted to staging mechanisms with which he could just as easily have staged one of his harmless stupid comedies. He recently appeared again in the producer position of a Will Farrell film (“Holmes & Watson”), which is currently on the list of nominees for the disgraceful Golden Raspberry Award. You have to imagine this: a man nominated equally for the best and worst film of the year.
Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) and his wife (Amy Adams) have finally reached the top.
While as producer of “Holmes & Watson” he was only indirectly involved in the creative decisions of its makers, in the case of “Vice – The Second Man” the production is once again completely in his hands. He not only directed his fictional portrait of former US Vice President Dick Cheney, but also wrote the script himself. It shows. “Vice” is a film from McKay’s hand through and through, which could easily lead one to accuse him of just quoting himself. And if you’re honest, you could list all the advantages and disadvantages of “The Big Short” at this point, apply them to “Vice” and ultimately have an at least somewhat correct analysis of the film without having to put in the greatest effort to have. For “Vice”, Adam McKay once again plays with a wide variety of cinematic stylistic devices in order to bring an actually quite dry topic to his audience in the most entertaining way possible. But while other filmmakers are content with writing the explanatory dialogues as varied and quick as possible (that’s how it is here), McKay is more concerned with the presentation of them. We remember: In “The Big Short” Margot Robbie suddenly welcomed us in a bubble bath to explain the important aspects of the US real estate bubble, simply because the topic itself is already boring enough, so it should at least be presented in an exciting way receive.
“Vice” doesn’t skimp on such (meta) games either, varying the way they are presented here enough so as not to fall into lame repetition. Sometimes a group debates the events that happened in the film for market research purposes (and also throws aside swipes at things that have nothing to do with politics), other times he lets his film end after around half of the running time – including Explanatory text panel and credits – before Dick Cheney’s scandalous involvement even happens. If only he hadn’t answered that damn ringing phone… And yet another time, McKay replays the same event several times, always in a different person’s imagination. Of course, these are initially just staging hiccups, but at the same time the makers unmask the controversial behavior of their protagonists, which doesn’t just include the Cheneys, in an easily understandable way. In addition to the eponymous vice, “Vice” also exposes contemporaries such as Donald Rumsfeld and the Bushes, although the film maintains less and less of its amusing tone, especially towards the end, the more dramatic the circumstances become. That fits the topic: At some point, the images of tortured prisoners can no longer be forced into a halfway tolerable entertainment corset, even with the greatest possible satirical distance.
At one point they were one of the most powerful couples in the world: Lynne and Dick Cheney.
That’s also the reason why “Vice” sometimes seems a little indecisive and has caused an extremely mixed response from critics, especially in the USA. Behind all the self-sacrifice to make “Vice” an entertaining history lesson in US politics, the value of the film as a sober portrait of Dick Cheney has to take second place. This ensures that the obese contemporary (Christian Bale gained over 45 pounds for his role) becomes everything, from a serious politician to an overestimating idiot to an absolute joke; but he is never just a normal person. Bale (“American Hustle”) skillfully holds this caricature of such a powerful contemporary together and never becomes contradictory, but at no point does it even manage to give a glance behind to reveal the facade. Even in the very intimate moments between him and his wife, for example when he is the victim of another heart attack, all of this is only part of the overall picture of Dick Cheney as a loser. And when he speaks to the audience personally at the end and indirectly makes them responsible for the fact that everything turned out the way it did, the pain that he is currently alienating the audience from could hardly be greater. Amy Adams has to (“Arrival”) as his wife, whose importance within this circus is well demonstrated, but who literally remains in her husband’s shadow. However, this doesn’t just apply to them: Steve Carell too (“Foxcatcher”)Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”)Eddie Marsan (“Atomic Blonde”) and Jesse Plemons (“Game Night”), to name just a handful of those whom Adam McKay was able to enlist in minor and major supporting roles, are sidelined by Christian Bale’s engaging presence. And that fits the appearance of the unexpected political star quite well.
Conclusion: Is director Adam McKay simply transferring the successful staging concept he used in “The Big Short” from the subject of the real estate bubble to US politics? Somehow. Is his new film “Vice – The Second Man” just as fun and also really snappy? In any case!
“Vice – The Second Man” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from February 21st.