One of the most courageous and interesting films from this most recent list of Oscar winners is “Vice,” which follows the life of the despicable politician, Dick Cheney, the most powerful vice-president in U.S. history.
As silent as he was strategic, the Republican leader transformed an office, the function of which was marked by protocol and symbolism — the vice-presidency of the United States — into the true power behind the throne, under cover of the weak character of the inexperienced George W. Bush.
Starting with Cheney’s youth as an awful student, a drunk, a misfit and a reckless driver, the film shows Cheney’s dark growth into a champion of political opportunism and his gradual rise to a high government level. Climbing to such high altitudes, he went from being CEO of a large oil company to vice-president of the country, but not before receiving a juicy multimillion dollar bonus from the company.
Cheney cleared the way for his former bosses and friends to divide up the Middle East’s petroleum spoils, with 9/11 as the perfect excuse, meanwhile greasing the war machine for the benefit of large corporations. He was the brains behind the huge lie about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, a scam of epic proportions that led to the invasion of Iraq, the destabilization of the Middle East and, later, the birth of the Islamic State.
Under Cheney’s extreme right ideology, the golden age of American centers for torture and abuse of prisoners took place. Centers such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo employed the use of sodomy, acid attacks and electric shock to prisoners’ genitals, among other abominations, that the “Vice” called enhanced interrogation techniques.
Contempt for the law and a rigged interpretation of the Constitution are examples of what a politician can cause by manipulating fear and hate among citizens to motivate their support for re-election and for a foreign war whose only beneficiaries are corporations thirsty for contracts.
Last night, “Vice” won the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling for transforming actor Christian Bale into the distinguished, elderly Cheney, a king of camouflage who pulled the strings of power from the shadows.
The huge moral that this film imparts – about the people we, as citizens, empower, and the level of violence and degradation that we are willing to support – is as universal and relevant as the vices it portrays.