The holidays are the perfect time to catch up on some movies, which is exactly what I have been doing these past couple of days. We’re approaching January and awards season is about to take off. In the past two days, I watched two movies that are on the complete opposite sides of the spectrum. One was about a blindfolded Sandra Bullock fighting shadow demons and the other involved Christian Bale gaining 50 pounds to play a former Vice President. Here are my reviews for each film.
What if your worst fear caused you to commit suicide? That fear makes up the premise of Bird Box, Netflix’s latest original film. Bird Box follows Malorie Hayes (Sandra Bullock) and her two children, named “Boy” and “Girl,” as they travel down the river to reach a new community that protects them from the supernatural entity that causes people to kill themselves. The only problem is that the trio must make this trip blindfolded because once you view the evil spirit, you will die. The movie flashes back to the initial outbreak of the entity and how Malorie along with a group of survivors (Trevante Rhodes, Machine Gun Kelly, John Malkovich, Rosa Salazar, and more) deal with the tragedy under one roof.
It’s not fair to compare Bird Box with this film, but you can’t help but think that Bird Box is “A Quiet Place with no sight instead of sound.” However, A Quiet Place was significantly better than Bird Box. After having a few days to think about Bird Box, I’m still struggling to form a concise opinion. I’m not sure if I liked Bird Box or if I hated it. Bullock was solid and the premise was innovative. However, the middle of the movie felt predictable as it went through the motions of a typical horror movie (ie. everyone dies one by one). Once again, I hate to compare it to A Quiet Place, but one of the best moments in John Krasinski’s masterpiece was the reveal of the creatures up close and in the flesh. In Bird Box, I was waiting for the shadow to take on a supernatural being or shape throughout the entire movie, revealing its true form to the world. However, this never happened, which was a huge letdown.
Bird Box kept my attention for two hours, but with a predictable plot and a huge letdown, I felt relieved when the movie ended.
During the film, Vice, the following quote runs across the screen: “Beware the quiet man. For while others speak, he watched. And while others act, he plans. And when they finally rest… he strikes.” That quote sets the stage for Adam McKay’s scorching takedown of Dick Cheney and his impact on American politics in Vice. The film tells the story of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) and his unprecedented rise to power in Washington D.C. From Yale dropout to a political intern to becoming one of the most powerful Vice Presidents in history, Cheney rise to the top was somewhat under-the-radar. Bale portrays Cheney as a quiet, but dangerous politician who was obsessed with power. A “silent assassin” or “puppet master” could be used to best describe Cheney.
This movie is going to be very decisive. You’re either going to love it or hate it. From a performance standpoint, Christian Bale shines. Bale is one of the most talented actors on Planet Earth (top 5 for my money). From the physical transformation to his methodical presence, Bale successfully became the quiet one who ended up secretly running the country. Rounding out the cast are Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, and a memorable performance from Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, who for all intents and purposes, is portrayed as a drunk that’s easily manipulated. Also, in terms of structure, McKay stole a page from his previous film, The Big Short, by using comedic segments to explain difficult topics to the audience. (Ex. Selena Gomez explaining synthetic CDOs at the poker table in The Big Short).
Political movies are always hard for me to review because it’s almost impossible to separate grading the actor’s performance from the message the film is trying to portray. It’s clear that Vice is a takedown of Cheney, his decisions, and the American political system. 9/11, The War on Terror, Global Warming, and oil are policies shaped by Cheney that still effect America today, for better or in a lot of cases, for worse. A lot of the film is based on facts, but with most biopics, it is dramatized because it’s impossible to display accurate conversations without actually having been there. After leaving the theater, the film left me angry, sad, and confused.
My biggest problem with Vice involves the title character. It’s a ruthless look into Cheney’s rise to power, but you hardly learn about Cheney personally and what makes him tick. Part of that has to do with Cheney’s preference to attack from silence, which resembles his personality. The audience gets a small glimpse of Cheney’s personal life with is family, but the film rarely goes into detail about personal life, which is what I look for in biographical films. Also, this film is clearly told from one point of view with the intention of exposing Cheney. If that is not part of your political agenda, you will probably be turned off from the start as the Bush era is not presented in a positive manner.
Vice was a clever, revealing look into Dick Cheney and how he might have been the one pulling all of the strings throughout the Dubya era. Bale was the standout, but Rockwell’s interpretation of George Bush might be what the audience remembers the most. Despite being a one-sided viewpoint, Vice is an interesting portrayal of a man the public knows little about, which is why I wanted to know more about Cheney the man in addition to Cheney the politician.