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Cheney reaction: life and times of a neo-con

Political biopic, following major figure in a clique taking over the government of the last superpower on Earth, would be enjoyable if it wasn’t so frightening

25 January, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Vice

Directed by Adam McKay
Certificate 12a

IF you wrote this story as a political thriller set in Ruritania, the audience would roll its eyes and think, yeah, right, that’s a bit far-fetched . . .

But the simple, awful, heart-breaking fact is Vice, about the life and times of American neo-con Dick Cheney, is true – and can only leave you with a sense of deep, unsettling doom about the state of so-called liberal Western democracies.

What happened to shared progressive values, of standing for a global good? If they ever did really exist, as this film shows, they got crushed by Cheney and his gang.

This is Fall of Rome stuff about a murderous clique taking over the government of the last superpower on Earth and using it for solely nefarious ends.

Director Adam McKay has form for biting off important stories and making them palatable. He did it with The Big Short, about the 2008 sub prime mortgage fiasco that led to a global depression, using a smack of Michael Moore-style asides to camera to explain some of the more complicated bits.

Vice takes us through five decades of Dick Cheney’s career, from being a drunken young man in Wyoming, meeting his life-long love Lynne (Amy Adams, worthy of an Oscar), working for Richard Nixon and becoming the White House chief of staff for Gerald Ford, serving in Congress and then taking on the job as CEO of oil firm Halliburton (who won megabillion contracts in Iraq…). He was then persuaded to be George W Bush’s running mate – and as the film explains, on the understanding that this would not be the usual ceremonial and toothless role given to the VP.

Christian Bale, hidden under a fat suit, is evil, Machiavellian. Sam Rockwell’s George W Bush could be as funny as Chaplin’s Great Dictator if it wasn’t so frightening what he was responsible for. Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld, that double-speaking, truth-twisting political shyster completes a quartet on top of their game.

The legendary American journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the story of the My Lai massacre, worked on Watergate, and has written about the meatiest topics in American politics for the past 50 years, refers to Cheney at length in his recent autobiography, Reporter.

He knew what McKay tells us – and was plotting a book to expose it.

“By early 2002, I was getting information from inside the White House and inside one of the major military commands as Cheney’s authority grew,” he writes.

He realised that Cheney and Rumsfeld had, as he puts it, “essentially overthrown the government of the United States… Cheney had emerged as a leader of a neo-con pack.

“From 9/11 on, he did all he could to undermine congressional oversight, amounting to a massively cynical and perhaps unconstitutional enterprise emanating out of the White House.”

While Hersh has yet to write the book, this film admirably fills in the gaps. This political biopic would be enjoyable if it wasn’t so frightening. It shows how there are powerful, money-driven forces at work that are subverting our institutions and our right to govern ourselves. It is the price of 50 years of neo-liberalism and reveals the values supposedly ingrained in democratic countries are a sham – and one that is costing millions of lives through conflict, and is killing Mother Earth.

Watch this film, and get angry.


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