Power Play

Stars: Christian Bale (Dick Cheney), Amy Adams (Lynne Cheney), Steve Carell (Donald Rumsfeld), Sam Rockwell (George W. Bush), Alison Pill (Mary Cheney), Lily Rabe (Liz Cheney), Tyler Perry (Colin Powell), Justin Kirk (Scooter Libby), LisaGay Hamilton (Condoleezza Rice), Bill Pullman (Nelson Rockefeller) and Jesse Plemons as the narrator
Director/Scriptwriter: Adam McKay
Composer: Nicholas Britell
Cinematography: Greig Fraser
Plan B Entertainment/Annapurna Pictures
Rating: R for violence, themed material and profanity
Running Length: 133 Minutes 

The title for this film can have two meanings.  One, indicating the Vice President and the other concerned with “vice” as a crime. Director/scriptwriter Adam McKay gives the audience the story of Dick Cheney who climbed the political ranks of Washington, D.C. to become Vice President with George W. Bush as president. Christian Bale (“Hostiles”) takes on the role of Dick Cheney and it is hard to tell it isn’t the real Cheney on screen.  He has the voice, physical appearance and mannerisms down pat. Amy Adams is Lynne, Dick’s wife, and the advice behind the man. Bale gained 40 pounds to play this role and Cheney’s story is told with humor and seriousness.  The scene-stealer, though, is Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, who always seems two beats behind everyone else.  The story is told by a narrator, Jesse Plemons. 

The film begins with Cheney as a young college student with a drinking problem. He is from Wyoming, but ends up at Yale and then gets tossed out.  He meets Lynne in 1963 when he played football. The story goes back and forth in time from younger days to their present time during the George W. Bush Administration. Profanity is widely used especially by Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). Women were supposed to be in the background in dinner parties, as men adjourned to another room to drink, smoke and discuss politics. Cheney won the 1978 Wyoming Congressional race and then it was on to D.C. Cheney had his first heart attack in 1984. Family life centers on his two daughters Liz and Mary and what effects it has on the family to find out Mary is gay. Under President George H. W. Bush, Cheney is Secretary of Defense and 6th in Line to the Presidency.  The climb to the top continues, as Dick Cheney is asked to be George W. Bush’s running mate, and with that, more power.  In the film, you begin to wonder who is really running the country, Bush or Cheney and the Vietnam War is past, so now it is Iran and Iraq.  It seems as though America is always at war with a country over something, and could this have been avoided, or not?  There is a phrase used concerning invading countries, “You break it, you bought it.” 

What I found interesting in this film, is that with the health problems Dick Cheney had and the physical weight he carried, he managed to stay on top of the game so long.  Lynne Cheney had her own career in the scholastic system. However, as shown here, Lynne was a power behind the throne in her own right.  As far as acting, Christian Bale becomes Dick Cheney. Tyler Perry is Colin Powell and Sam Rockwell becomes George W. Bush. Then, there is Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, and this characterization gives comedy new meaning. Every other word is profane. 

The physical setting such as homes, cars, clothing and so on takes you back to the 1970's and on time period, including the destroying of the Twin Towers in New York City. How the top echelon heard of this comes in varying ways.  Then, there was the mortgage scandal which was like a war on the home front. Director Adam McKay ("The Big Short") does much with playing with the audience.  For example, just when you think this is a short film with credits, he bounces back to the story. Keeps you on your toes.  As far as politics is concerned, war is war and invasions are sometimes determined not on what is better for each country, but what is better for the larger country.  As Cheney is quoted in a famous television interview, “You chose me and I did what you asked.” 


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner