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Yes No Maybe So: Christian Bale is "Vice"

by Nathaniel R

click to embiggenThe major Oscar hopeful that's played things closest to the vest this season is Vice. The trailer and poster (to your left) have both finally dropped today and other Oscar campaigns are probably shivering a bit. The film, from writer/director Adam McKay of The Big Short fame, is a comedy telling the true story of how Dick Cheney came to rule the world (albeit behind the curtain as the Vice President) and set the US on a sorry new course.

It's an all-star affair with Oscar winners Christian Bale (Dick Cheney) and Sam Rockwell (George W Bush), Oscar darling Amy Adams (Lynne Cheney), and Oscar nominee Steve Carell (Donald Rumsfeld) in political drag as figures we know and love hate. Alison Pill and Tyler Perry are also in the film (though they aren't featured in the trailer) as Mary Cheney and Colin Powell respectively.

After the jump the trailer and our Yes No Maybe So breakdown...



  • The framing device of the trailer is inspired with Bush asking Cheney to be his 'Vice' and then Cheney immediately bargaining for power and lots of it while Bush is too good ol' boy simple to realize or care that he'll be the 'symbolic' one of the pair.
  • Mimicry & Makeup with capitals M as these famous stars are placing themselves in the skin, souls, clothes and hair of other famous people. This tends to be fun to watch in movies (and probably fun for the actors to perform) which is surely one of the reasons it's such a reliable Oscar-baiting tactic.
  • The sound Bale makes when Carell asks him if he's even more ruthless now is A+, don't you think?
  • Beautifully cut stylish trailer. Especially that big bold yellow type behind Bale/Cheney's stroll down the corridors of power.




  • I for one am NOT in the mood for this story given the political climate. The GOP has decimated this country so often and then the Democrats come in once in a while and basically just get to clean up until they're booted again. It's all so dispiriting. I don't want to watch these people even if McKay's politics (if The Big Short is indication) are positing them all as 'love to hate them' characters. 
  • Also is Comedy really the right tone given the mass destruction that administration's war mongering caused in the world? I'd hate to see this reduced to chuckles when it was soul crushing to live through.
  • That 'who's the man' song business in the background... so much toxic masculinity in this trailer. I feel triggered!
  • Annoyed with that shot of Bale shirtless with the big belly (shades of American Hustle). Bale is a beautiful man but people keep praising him for gaining and losing weight for roles and that much frequent transformation cannot possibly be good for his health; also it's not acting




  • ...on the other hand satire can be cathartic and so much will depend on execution. Speaking of...
  • Though Bale has some great clips in this montage of scenes, there's also a few moments that play uncomfortably like SNL sketch comedy mimicry, especially his first and last line reading. There's a little bit of Batman still in there!
  • There's extremely little of Amy Adams in the trailer but the one line she gets reminds uncomfortably of her behind-the-scenes power move in The Master (2012). I realize I'm in the minority but I think that's one of her least impressive performances. I never bought the ruthlessness.
  • Why is Mary Cheney (Alison Pill) not in the trailer? Will it just be a cameo and shrug the Cheney's very questionable politics about LGBT people to the side?


Listen obviously I'm seeing it because Oscar nominations feel quite possible (it'll have to move up the charts after this trailer) but if I weren't a pundit/film blogger, I think I'd probably be a "no" on subject matter / tone unless reviews convinced me otherwise. Are you a Yes No or Maybe So? 

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Reader Comments (44)

I'm with you. Yes as Oscar fan. No as a regular Joe movie watcher.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I think after Big Short we should trust McKay to bring home the tragedy amidst the comedy. That's a good trailer but they're obviously lightening the mood to appeal to a broader audience.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commentertonytr

Unless this depicts Bush, Cheney, and their whole gang of evil cronies as the world-ruining, money-hungry murderers that they really are and leaves NO room for even a minute shred of sympathy, I don't want this. Bush, despite being more palatable at face value than Trump, does not deserve the "aw, shucks!" treatment the media has been giving him as of late.

Laughing, even satirically, at any of this in 2018 feels vile and tone-deaf.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDiego

I watched reluctantly after learning what Trump did at his rally yesterday. I'm sick of the pathology / psycopathy pervading US politics. I watched and while I've always been a big fan of Bale and can admire what could possibly is a top notch performance, my mind also perceives certain readings/scenes as SNL sketches. So I'm confused as to what they're going for. Is it more of a political comedy? I will probably wait until Netflix has it.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJones

Huge, huge, huge NO. I hate that I’m going to have to see this because of the Oscar season. I hope it flops.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

That was the Killers' song "The Man" in the trailer. Actually thought it fit pretty well.. chuckled a little when it came on.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

I've spent the past couple weeks so furious that I don't know what to do with my anger, and I hope this movie is an outlet. It looks like it could be from the trailer.

The Oscar movie I'm dreading in light of the political environment is First Man.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

This could be the modern day Dr. Strangelove-type satire your country needs right now. I seriously doubt McKay is going to soften ANY of those characters. I can't wait. Bale is the most fearless actor alive.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhepwa

From the trailer i'm a no,I prefer Bale when he's Bale no ticks no mimicry no weight gain like his astonishing lived in work in Hostiles just last year,Not sold on McKay as a director as the tone seems off as you say Nat.

Agreed The Master is one of Amy's least convicing roles,i'm liking Rockwell in the trailer giving us Bush but not a parody Bush,good thinking,Yes I like the reaction to Careell's quesion.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Sam Rockwell's "transformation" style I can live with: slight makeup and hairdo to make him look more like GWB without stripping Rockwell of his essence. Bale's on the other hand is no no. He's not Bale anymore. Why can't they get someone more like Cheney? There's dozens of actors who have more of a physical resemblance to the real man AND have equal amounts of talent.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I'm on the maybe on this. I'm still baffled at the love that The Big Short got, didn't find it anything out of the ordinary. And the "no column" of the post makes great points.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterV.

Gonna have to see it for Oscar season, and I think I'll enjoy it. Only thing that bugs me is the casting. I know Christian Bale is a tremendous, transformative actor and all that, but why is everyone in this movie so much older than their real-life counterparts at the time? Amy Adams, especially? Why not cast a 50-something in the role?

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

Paranoid Android: Looking at the lyrics? Something tells me McKay might have assembled this trailer. Wants to only give the premise and tone of the movie, leaving most exact details and flow a surprise, song that is about the general subject. Still slightly on the nose, but less so than if, to give an example that didn't happen, The Founder's trailer just used Boom, Like That.
Suzanne: Because First Man's all about "Men are awesome, am I right?" and this is "Yeah, no, men are AWFUL"? Or is this kind of an Elon Musk thing, and getting people's hopes up about space travel is just really harsh now?

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Correction: 'why is everyone in this movie so much YOUNGER than their real-life counterparts at the time?'

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

Volvagia - Nah, I definitely don't think all men are awful, I'm just not in a mood right now for another movie that glorifies the America of 50 years ago and our heroes of the period, especially when it feels like we are making so little progress. I'll see it with an open mind, but it just feels tone deaf.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I actually think Bale looks pretty terrific. Carell, on the other hand, seems wildly miscast and, from the trailer at least, this hardly appears to be a Joan Allen/Sally Field-level showcase for Adams.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

Can confirm that Adams has 2-3 knockout Oscar clips. If Colman does in fact go lead, it'll be hers to lose.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLandon

This is Oscar homework for me. Looks bland, but I will still go and enjoy Slay-Me Adams.

I found The Big Short really obnoxious and messy. I am still shocked that it and the Revenant seemed to be the frontrunners for so much of the 2015 Oscar Race, when Carol, Brooklyn and Mad Max were RIGHT THERE.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

Love love love this trailer. It's superbly cut, funny, funky, and teases tone and performances just enough to get the hook in. Big Short proved Adam McKay knows how to balance comedy with searing indictments of raw greed - with the right amount of pop sugar in the medicine to create pitch perfect satire. And I'm thrilled to see someone blow the lid off the truly insane corruption and outright thievery & manipulation that set the US on the course to where we are now. Done right, it could be a Strangelove for our times.

I want this. I need this. Bring it on.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel23

I am in... a big Bale and Adams fan.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

Pretty sure Rockwell is just fully reprising his Three Billboards role, which is not necessarily inappropriate.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJes V.

Already exhausted by this.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I'm very skeptical. Like with The Big Short, McKay seems to be marketing this as a film that breaks down a complicated historical event. Yet his take on the Bush presidency, at least in this trailer, seems no more nuanced than "Bush was a dummy and so Cheney pulled the strings." This SNL skit-like version of history needs to die. It's too reductive and it diminishes Bush's culpability in his own misdeeds.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

(Ha, I hadn't actually read the post-- sorry!-- but glad someone else also thought that this played like an SNL skit at times.)

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Thus whole thing is like a tone deaf SNL skit. I like the cast but I'm going to be a no.
Are people going to want to watch this? In the current political climate is there a large amount of people who will go out and pay to watch it?

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom G

This looked like the trailer for a movie with a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

I'm going with a maybe as I do love Adam McKay and the cast but I'm also hesitant considering the political climate we're in. Shit, I wish we had George W. Bush right now for 8 more years than Fuckhead.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I'm yes on both sides... love McKay doing satire.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

I hope it’s good but they definitely have to thread the needle between satire and tragedy. It’s unfortunately true that Bush and Trump will go down in history as two of our worst presidents. So I also am struggling with how this will qualify as entertainment in today’s grim climate. Maybe it’s necessary to understand our strange devolution.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford


October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I’m a no. I hated The Big Short. Well & truly wished i’d taken Margot Robbie’s advice & ‘fucked off’ out of the cinema when she demanded it. The trailer seems like a head ruffle to the type of men who are fucking your country as we speak. The universe is generous enough to George W. Bush to have cinema cast Sam Rockwell & James Brolin to portray him?? But not generous enough to give Amy Adams the Oscar for Arrival? Existential crisis in 3,2 ... oh wait it’s already happening

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChoog

The Big Short was The Big Shit. I agree w you, Nathaniel--Adams was not good in The Master. And we don't need THIS movie right now.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I feel too traumatized by current events in US politics to go watching a film on the person who used to be "the dumbest and worst US president". Just because you actually elected someone even worse than GWB doesn't make me want to revisit that period.
I'm a NO.
Let me add, I love Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell. I admire Christian Bale, but watching this trailer brought back the nausea. Love them but a definite NO for me. Too soon, fascism is a little too close at the moment.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Miss Adams and her stans will be lucky if this comes close to her brilliance in "The Master." U gurls need to have several seats with that noise!!!

Clear satire of the Bush administration to me. All here for it! Bale vs. Cooper. Sorry, Mr. Gosling.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDorian

Looks pretty good for a biopic-type film. Hell no i dont want to watch some self serious preachy horseshit like Lions for Lambs or Rendition; thank god this actually could be entertaining on some (or even mulitple) level(s). I’m all for that.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Pretty sure Rockwell is just fully reprising his Three Billboards role, which is not necessarily inappropriate.

@Jes V: Similarly, I felt that Sam Rockwell already played George W. Bush when he was Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

I love Amy and Christian but I’m a NO.

It makes me think that maybe I’ll see some other movies twice instead.
Like “On the Basis of Sex”, where a good and smart person becomes a Supreme Court judge.
Or “Peterloo” which discusses democratic revolt.

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Peterlloo moved to 2019 after a muted critical response.

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Yes for Amy alone

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFR

chasm301, for "Slay-Me Adams", Condragulations, you are the winner of this week's challenge.

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKirk

Bale is looking like Chevy Chase, kind of loving that.

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAni di

I totally can't recognize Bale under all those prosthetic n gimmicky pot belly!! And tt is NOT a compliment.

It looks like a either u hate or luv it kinda movie, w no middle ground.

I hav a feeling the critics will shred it to pieces!

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Unless Amy somehow becomes a nominee (with a role they can only give a single line to?) or it wins Best Picture I'm a big fat no. Nothing about this is appealing in the slightest. In fact, the mere existence of it makes me mad and for my own mental health and wellbeing I don't think I can bring myself to watch it. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WATCH MOVIES THAT YOU THINK LOOK BAD!

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks


In the interest of full disclosure, my politics are to the right of most, if not all, of the other posters to this thread. So I am, unsurprisingly, a "yes" on this. I caution, however, those of you who may reject the film for its subject matter to consider the following -

1. Very few people have seen this movie, which makes an evaluation of its artistic quality by this body impossible.

2. Of the films so far that have either made the festival circuit, received a public release, or both, in my humble opinion, only "BlacKKKlansman", "First Man", "Black Panther", and "A Star Is Born" seem to have made a solid case for an Oscar Best Picture nomination going into November. That leaves as many as six slots still available to films engaged in late release strategies. My point is that "Vice" may not find the field as crowded as some would suspect.

3. If the film draws solid critical notices (and I think this likely), then it will get in front of the eyeballs of Academy members, either in theaters or screeners back home. After that, its Oscar nomination chances are all contingent on how well it gets campaigned versus the competition.

I do believe "Vice" will get nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, but I am prepared to withdraw that if the picture does not live up to my and Nathaniel's (albeit reluctant) expectations. So, a question: if Claran is wrong and the critical community praises "Vice" rather than excoriating it, would the subject matter still be enough to dissuade the "no" group from seeing the film?

October 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

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