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Posted at: Feb 10, 2019, 1:18 AM; last updated: Feb 10, 2019, 1:18 AM (IST)

In pursuit of power

Adam McKay’s biopic dramedy Vice tells an energetic, entertaining story about US vice-president Dick Cheney and the pitfalls of executive privileges
In pursuit of power
A still from Vice, which reveals how power affects the human mind

Navnee Likhi

American director Adam McKay’s Vice chronicles the life of Dick Cheney, former US vice-president, known for his secrecy and power of observation. Cheney, who rose to power under George W. Bush Jr, has often been criticised for his policy of war on terror. A combat veteran narrates the story, which reveals the pitfalls of executive privileges. 

The film opens on September 11, 2001, with Dick Cheney and other officials in an underground White House bunker. In response to terror attacks on World Trade Centre, Cheney instructs that any aircraft deemed a threat to ‘Presidential authority” should be shot down. The film then flashes back to early 1960s in Wyoming where Dick Cheney as a young man works as a lineman but struggles with alcohol addiction. He enrolls in University of Wyoming for courses in political science. Later, he moves to Washington DC and joins as an intern with Congressman William A. Stieger during the presidency of Nixon. He then works as staff of Donald Rumsfeld. Dick comes to know about Henry Kissinger’s discussion on secret bombing of Cambodia with President Nixon. This reveals to him the true power of the executive. After Nixon’s resignation following the Watergate Scandal, Dick rises to the rank of White House chief of staff for president Gerald Ford. Later, he wins a seat from Wyoming in US House of Representatives. He is appointed secretary of defence during the presidency of George W H. Bush Sr. He oversees Operation Desert Storm. Due to his failing health, he leaves his political post and joins as CEO of Halliburton Company.

Dick receives a call from Texas governor George W. Bush Jr, who asks him to be his Republican running mate as vice-president. Dick refuses initially but agrees later after he gets a good offer. George W. Bush Jr wins the elections. Before taking oath of office as vice-president of America, Dick whispers to his wife, “I want to show the world the truth of power of American presidency.” Dick sets up his office in White House overseeing the work related to secretary of defence, legal counsel and chief of staff. He gives intelligence briefings to the president.

Following terror attacks on WTC, Dick  shapes Bush’s policy of war on terror. He continues to allege links between Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, even though president receives classified intelligence report that there was no evidence linking two. In the aftermath of war, the Halliburton oil field company gets sizeable contracts. 

No weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq. After the war, crime reports reveal mounting casualties of American soldiers and use of one of the most  inhuman techniques of torture known as waterboarding at prison centres. Dick is forced to quit. Director Adam Mckay succeeds in some effective juxtapositions in Dick’s life with comic punch tones. 

The film does not sway on politician’s side but it reveals how power affects the human mind. Dick Cheney is a shrewd, knowledgeable man who knew the functions and intricacies of the government. The film has been written by director Adam McKay on the basis of exhaustive research from 18 publications written on the subject. Background score by Nicholas Britell peps up the story, complemented with brisk editing by Hank Corman. 

Christian Bale in the role of Dick Cheney portrays his character as vice-president with finesse by nailing it with squinty eyes, his distinctive growl and hunched presence. Amy Adams portrays the nuances and complexity of Lynne Cheney convincingly. 

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