Vice (2018)

Vice poster

SHORT VERSION

The story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

MEDIUM VERSION

Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) is a drunk and got kicked out of college. Lynne (Amy Adams) pushes him to get his act together. He becomes a congressional intern working for Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) and quickly learns how to play the game and amass power. Eventually, he is asked by George Bush (Sam Rockwell) to become his running mate, and he does, but essentially is puppeteering the president, overseeing whole departments and intelligence.

After 9/11, he creates and pushes the narrative that we need to attack Iraq despite them having nothing to do with the attacks, which makes a ton of money for him and Halliburton. He also sanctions extreme torture. He shows no remorse for any of his actions, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and created ISIS.

LONG VERSION

After a quick shot of a very young Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) getting pulled over for driving drunk, we see the day of 9/11 – in an underground White House bunker, Cheney gives the authorization to shoot down any aircraft deemed a threat… on “presidential authority.” A narrator (Jesse Plemons) explains that most people have no idea how one man came to so much power, changing history and affecting millions of lives.

The narrator takes us back decades, to young Dick and Lynne (Amy Adams) Cheney. Lynne was a top student, but Dick got kicked out of Yale after drinking too much. After bailing him out of jail, Lynne yells at him to get his life together. Lynne’s father was a drunk who abused her mother, and she refuses to sign up for the same life. She wants him to be something. Dick becomes a congressional intern who starts working for the obnoxious Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carrell), an old-school boys club type. The two become very close until Rumsfeld is sent off as an ambassador because of his conflicts with the Nixon White House. Meanwhile, Lynne’s mother mysteriously drowns, and it seems like it may have been a domestic violence incident, though no charges are filed. Dick tells Lynne’s father never to come near them again.

Once Watergate happens, and Nixon is out, Rumsfeld as one of the few Republicans not involved is brought back and made Secretary of Defense for President Ford. Dick becomes Chief of Staff. Cheney meets with young Antonin Scalia to learn about a legal theory called the Unitary Executive Theory, essentially saying anything the president does is legal simply because he or she is the president. Cheney holds this theory close. But before he can implement it, Carter wins the next presidential election, and everyone is out of a job.

Back in Wyoming, Dick runs for Congress but has a heart attack in the middle of his campaign. Lynne goes on many campaign stops and rallies in his place, and he eventually wins the race. After winning, he is able to do things repeal the fairness doctrine that required news outlets to show both sides of the argument, which led to Fox News. At a party, the Cheneys talk with George Bush Sr. and notice his drunk, “black sheep” son George W. (Sam Rockwell).

Meanwhile, Mary Cheney (Alison Pill), one of Dick’s two daughters, gets into a car accident after running out of school. When her parents ask her why she left, she explains she had a fight with her girlfriend – she’s gay. Dick supports her unconditionally. After Bush’s presidency, Cheney considers running but his polling numbers are terrible, so he becomes the CEO of Halliburton for many years until George W. calls him to ask him to be his Vice President. At their meeting, Dick declines but offers to help him find a running mate. When George asks again, Dick says he wants more power than a typical Vice President – he wants to oversee major departments. He also says his daughter Mary is off limits. George agrees. After the 2000 election is incredibly close, the supreme court – with Antonin Scalia – stops the recount and they win the election.

Dick sets up his operation in the white house: total oversight, including getting the intelligence briefings before George. He does work getting tax breaks for the wealthy and stopping environmental efforts. Then 9/11 happens. Dick meets with his lawyer while in the bunker: Iraq has many oil-rich areas. Intelligence points to Al Qaeda (in Afghanistan) being responsible but Rumsfeld and Cheney seize the opportunity to bring up Sadaam in Iraq. Colin Powell (Tyler Perry) points out Iraq has literally nothing to do with the attacks, but Dick finds this unimportant.

Dick meets with John Yoo, a lawyer who has an opinion that the US can monitor all citizens and also asserts that if the US commits any act, it cannot be torture – so the US resumes torture activities and outside-the-lines actions such as Guantanamo Bay. Using a sketchy, unreliable source, Dick begins pushing the narrative that Sadaam has weapons of mass destruction. The American people still don’t see a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, so the cabinet asks Colin Powell, who has the highest trustworthiness ratings, to give a speech pushing this narrative. He resists but eventually gives in. Since an Iraqi enemy of Sadaam’s, Zarqawi, had a meeting with Bin Laden, they claim this is proof, and Powell mentions this over and over in his speech. Thus began the Iraq War. Cheney and Halliburton get sizable contracts.

Around this time, Dick accidentally shoots his friend while hunting and never apologizes, and then leaks undercover agent Valerie Plame’s identity after her journalist husband publishes a piece questioning the war in Iraq. Zarqawi, who has gained power because of the US making him a major celebrity, starts ISIS. No weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq. After the war crimes come out, Dick calls Rumsfeld and tells him he’s being forced out. Later, Dick has yet another heart problem, in need of a heart transplant. As the narrator explains this, he is hit by a car, and his heart is given to Dick.

Liz Cheney (Lily Rabe), Dick’s other daughter, is running for his old Wyoming seat and is behind in the polls because she has hedged on gay marriage. She doesn’t know what to do and goes to her parents for counsel – and they give her permission to do what she needs to do. She then goes on TV and says she does not support gay marriage. Mary is enraged and devastated.

During an interview, a reporter questions Dick on his practices, but he shows no remorse, saying he did what needed to be done to protect the American people. Post-script indicates the number of people (soldiers and civilians) who have died as a result of all those wars and due to ISIS. Halliburton stock rose five hundred percent. The Bush-Cheney White House claimed to have lost 22 million e-mails.

In a mid-credits scene, a focus group debates if the movie had a political bias or not.

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