Starring Christian Bale. Rated 14A
If we’re told anything by the recent state funeral for George H.W. Bush—an ex–CIA chief whose own father was convicted of laundering money for Hitler at the height of World War II—it’s that politicians are expected to at least pretend to care about the public at large. That’s why everyone in the room was giving stink eyes to the transgressor-in-chief sitting awkwardly in the first pew. Dick and Lynne Cheney were ensconced, as usual, in the second row of political life.
Are Trump’s racial slurs, treasonous actions, and financial misdeeds anathema to the former vice president? Of course not. It’s just that this idiot does everything out in the open! Quite the opposite for Cheney, as Vice captures with a sardonic wink; the man wore an unchanging mask of bland servitude in order to fatally destabilize the 21st century at its very start, and got away with it.
The new movie benefits from Christian Bale’s convincing transformation into Cheney’s soul-dead body, seen simulating various human behaviours over the length of his regrettably long career. In the scattershot chronology provided by writer-director Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Big Short), Dick is seen beginning as a Wyoming good ol’ boy, much in the hard-partying mould of Bush-family black sheep George W., playfully embodied by Sam Rockwell.
In a more heavily bouffanted riff on her role in The Master, Amy Adams plays Lynne Cheney as Dick’s Lady Macbeth. Once our junior Bush had been pushed forward as the genial face of Republican tax cuts for the über-rich, Mr. Macbeth knew exactly how to snatch the wheel from this dim newbie, and angle the ship of state directly toward an iceberg called Iraq. He was also CEO of Halliburton, which stood to make millions from a trumped-up war, with the help of old Nixon compadre Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell, in a parlour-trick role).
Here, Cheney’s long road toward total moral dissolution is mostly treated as a dark joke, based on wounds still too recent to laugh at. Ironically, McKay’s kaleidoscopic approach has the effect of shoving Cheney’s horrors safely into the past. They are not dead, let alone buried, and refusing to face them is America’s funeral.