With Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carrell, Sam Rockport.
Adam McKay wants honor in government, and he sees chicanery and downright manipulative evil in the person of Dick Cheney. Of course he is not alone. Many people were upset during the George W. Bush administration, when it did seem as if the vice president wielded more power than the president, and it was frustrating to consider this laconic, smug man as someone worthy of it.
The movie points out how the vice president usurped the power rightfully belonging to the president and congress to accomplish several things in the wake of September 11, when the country was reeling from the terrorist attacks. He used the unitary theory of the executive branch to exercise control of the government. So Cheney ran with it, and instead of conferring with the legislative branch after September 11, he told the army what to do, urged the war in Iraq and attack on Hussein, inflamed the other terrorists in the region which resulted in ISIS who inflicted much more damage on the region than Al Qaeda ever dreamed of. The vice president in his wily secretive but effective use of power goaded everyone into thinking these were good ideas.
He also used torture and extreme rendition in his pursuit of the bad guys.
Threading through the public story, the historical record, is the personal life of the man and his family. His wife, Lynne, is a powerhouse herself, coming from a family that we are led to believe has an abusive, perhaps murderous father. One of the more amusing scenes in the movie has Dick and Lynne in bed performing a scene from Shakespeare (Macbeth?) which details their need to exert power and acts as an aphrodisiac to Dick.
The Cheney children include a daughter whose lesbianism proves their closeness as Dick says to her when she comes out that he loves her no matter what. We also see how lucrative it is to move from a modest role in government to an executive position at Halliburton (1995-2000), and how the company he worked for benefited from his association with it during the war. As the New York Times reported in 2004, “Halliburton’s business with the military has grown substantially since Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney took office. The company rose to seventh-largest military contractor in 2003 from 22nd-largest in 2000.” Cheney also continued to receive bonuses from his former company.
There is some splendid acting in the movie especially from Sam Rockwell as W, Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfield, Lisa Gay Hamilton as Condeleeza Rice, and Jesse Plemons who narrates the story. It is his point of view, as the person whose heart Cheney got in a transplant, that informs the movie. Perhaps his heart was meant for better things.
Metaphors like this crossed my mind as I watched, (though I turned away when Cheney’s heart was removed from his chest, which was the point, in case you didn’t get it, that he did not have a heart at all) but the most compelling images come at the closing credits, when enlarged fishing flies appear in close up. One of them besides the brilliant feathers tied onto its hook has the Pentagon buried inside it. Another has a ballistic weapon. One has a small model of the White House. And so on.
This is the third set of credits McKay had fun with. The first came mid movie, when Bill Clinton’s election removed Cheney from the circle of power, and a bunch of typed credits say that he retired to Virginia, a multimillionaire, after working at Halliburton, etc. The second set of credits comes after Cheney is interviewed and lashes out about how he did what he thought would defend the country from terror. Then there is a scene with a market focus group where one man calls another man a libtard and in turn the libtard refers to Trump as a cheeto and so on. Very juvenile, very SNL worthy. But my favorite bit comes in the form of the fishing flies, because no one is voicing what you are supposed to think. You get it through the visuals.