Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Vice (2019)

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Vice  – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Tyler Perry

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis: A study of the life of Dick Cheney and how he went from an alcoholic Yale dropout to becoming one of the most powerful Vice Presidents in the history of the United States.

Review:  The President of the United States, one of, if not the most powerful individuals in the world. Yet today’s political climate is one that, especially in the last few years, has become increasingly divisive and hostile when it comes to, well just about anything and everything. Yet while Presidents tend to enjoy the bulk of the limelight, the Vice President is someone who may not receive quite so much of the media spotlight, but, much like the President, the power and influence they can have is quite frightening given, the current incumbents in these positions.

For a director whose early films were very much in the realms of comedies, Adam McKay has experienced quite the transition into more serious heavy-hitting film-making. The Big Short dabbled in the 2007 collapse of the housing market, and he goes much more political with this film. To go from that to a deep foray into early 2000s US politics, which was a chaotic time (to put it mildly) for the country as a horrific attack on US soil, put them on the war footing, is a bold move. Not least because in a deeply divided political spectrum, if you’re going to tell a story about how one politician of a particular political persuasion ruthlessly rose to power, that portrayal isn’t likely to sit very well with those who also are of that politician’s political persuasion.

Christian Bale is no stranger to dramatic physical transformations, having done so for a plethora of roles, and here he does it once again. He is unrecognisable under all the make up that helps him deliver an emphatically authentic performances as Dick Cheney. he goes from a drunkard college dropout, to the very top of the pyramid of US politics. Right by his side is the ever reliable Amy Adams as his wife Lynne, who as her husband rises in stature and acquires more power, she takes full advantage to further her own career, making them an extremely powerful couple. With Cheney arguably becoming even more powerful than his commander-in-chief: one George W Bush, played by an entertainingly buffoonish Sam Rockwell.

McKay chooses to tell this story in a manner that is helpful to digest the information to the audience, especially if they’re not au fait with early 2000s US politics. What is irksome is the way that he jumps from one point early in Cheney’s life, to a much later point with no explanation as to why, it’s all a bit sloppy in terms of its structure and some streamlining would have been most beneficial. While there are some funny moments, these are ultimately few and far between, which is problem for a film that is clearly trying to portray itself as political satire, it isn’t really that satirical, or funny. Furthermore, at a run time of 132 minutes, there’s a lot of unnecessary filler that really hampers the pacing.

Though there is one instance that shows Cheney’s compassion, these are overshadowed by the cold and ruthlessness nature that he possessed on his way to the top of the Washington power pyramid. The way in which McKay delivers his overall message is done in quite a reprehensible manner that, quite justifiably, will leave those who dwell on the Republican side of the aisle feeling a bit peeved. Though having said that, when you think of the current administration and his VP, and the power that they can wield, that’s quite daunting to say the least.

There’s some good intentions here, but a strong pair of performances from Adams and Bale cannot save a film that is very obnoxiously put together and just too full of its own self importance. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Big Short (2015)

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The Big Short  – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis:  An account of a group of people who foresaw the collapse of the housing market and the crumbling of the world’s economy in 2008.

Review: When the world’s economy went pretty much to shit in the latter half of the noughties, one thing we all knew was that the global economic situation was in complete disarray, with jobs being lost and lives ruined. But the vast majority probably had no idea who was to blame, why this happened, could it have been prevented and did anyone see this enormous mess coming? The answer to all of those questions is yes, four individuals to be precise who not only saw what was coming, but decided to do something about it and challenge the banks on their greed and their failure to avoid this catastrophe. Enter Anchorman director Adam McKay and screenwriter Charles Randolph, giving the account of how the entire world’s economy crashed and burned.

The account follows three different groups of people, who at various stages foresaw the impending doom, and each goes about their responses in very interesting ways. Firstly you have Christian Bale’s drumming, no shoes wearing kind of guy who likes to listen to metal music whilst foreseeing the imminent disaster via numbers on a screen. Then we have Steve Carrell’s melancholic hedge fund manager who teams up with Ryan Gosling’s trader, and finally we have Brad Pitt’s veteran banker, aided by two newbie investors. Through these three perspectives McKay flits between them as the months go by, and the financial crash looms on the horizon. The acting from all is of a very good calibre, with Bale being the stand-out amongst the ensemble and ensuring another Oscar nomination comes his way. After his unique role in Foxcatcher, Steve Carell again shows he too is a force to be reckoned with as he, mixing grumpiness and comedy surprisingly well.

Your average viewer is in all probability not going to have much clue when it comes to explaining the reasons behind the economic crash, and lots of the economic terminology are likely to sail over their heads. Therefore in order to understand the specific terminology that the cast are speaking of, there are some amusing celebrity cameos who are there for the purposes of dumbing it down so that those audience members who are not well versed in economics are able to catch their drift. There is humour peppered throughout to keep the story flowing, something McKay knows very well from his Anchorman days, and it does to a certain extent. However due to the vast amount of financial terminology, it means the story does falter a little bit. The interest in the story does diminish, which it shouldn’t given the impact that this crash undoubtedly had on many people the world over.

McKay presents his vision of this story almost documentary like with a lot of use of hand held cam in a handful of scenes. There is also a lot of breaking the fourth wall with the characters taking the audience for a ride. Yet the breaking of the fourth wall and the use of handheld cam does not always work. The latter in particular, it makes it look a bit sloppy and badly edited. And as this style is not always implemented, the film lacks a bit of consistency in terms of delivery and tone. It tries to be both a comedy and a documentary, and while sometimes it does work, others it really doesn’t. The film is probably the best attempt at telling the story of the housing crash, but even then, unless you’re very well versed in economics and all that jazz, the film is probably going to leave the audience found wanting when the credits begin to roll.

The acting is of a very decent order, with a solid enough script but unless you’re well versed in economics and the whole crisis, you may not be as interested in the story as you perhaps ought to be.

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