Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.




A lukewarm reaction from critic Mark Kermode and a condemnation from political writer Simon Jenkins are a strange way to start this review of the Dick Cheney biopic Vice, given that I really enjoyed it. Jenkins's is peculiar, believing it reduced the U.S. invasion of Iraq to the work of a few shady men in the U.S. administration. But wasn't it? Weren't the reasons for the invasion of Iraq – Weapons of Mass Destruction – proven false? Didn't Dick Cheney's energy company Halliburton make ridiculous amounts of money from the invasion? More broadly, wasn't the U.S.'s reaction to 9/11 a textbook example of the Shock Doctrine: of exploiting a national disaster to implement extreme (right-wing) policies that might otherwise never be given the light of day? How else could the invasion of Iraq have been justified, and for that matter, the erosion of people's rights regarding surveillance and torture? For Jenkins, the events after 9/11 might appear like so much chaos; more perceptive writers like Naomi Klein have made convincing arguments it was anything but.

Yet all the questions raised in the film do point to its biggest flaw. Vice is an often brilliantly acerbic and surreal view of Dick Cheney's rise from drunken failure to one of the most powerful men in the world. The rogue's gallery of Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell is engagingly hilarious, with Steve Carell's Rumsfeld funnily obnoxious, and Sam Rockwell's Bush on the nose. But what drives these men beyond their lack of sympathy for the consequences of their actions isn't clear, ideologically. Compare, for example, the other film made by the producers of this film, The Big Short, which explores the events that directly cause the 2008 Global Crash. There, we get an attempt at understanding the cause-and-effect. Vice, however, is much less articulate or focused on why the actions of Dick Cheney and the Bush administration proved so popular with the American public, and indeed, with the likes of British PM, Tony Blair. The presentation of Cheney and Rumsfeld as cynical white men is believable but not enough, given the impact and damage they caused.

Connected to this superficiality is one of the biggest missed opportunities, the marginal representation of Condoleeza Rice, who made perhaps two short utterances in the entire film. Other characters perhaps deserved minor parts – Colin Powell is rightly depicted as a political lightweight, while Paul Wolfowitz always seemed to me greasily two-dimensional even in real life. Not so Condoleeza Rice, arguably the most academically brilliant member of the Bush administration, as well as the most visibly genuine. A deeper exploration of Rice's experience might have added welcome dimensions to this film, balancing the privileged-white-bloke dynamics with alternative insights into why lying to your country to start a war is so laudable an exercise. For similar reasons, the performance by Amy Adams of Dick Cheney's wife Lynne is a highlight of the film – to some degree, the Lady Macbeth to her husband's drunken, loser version of Macbeth. But apart from her valuing of power, we see little of her beliefs. If Lynne Cheney was so forceful a power behind one of the most ideological (and powerful) Vice-Presidents in U.S. history, then what was her connection to this ultimately discredited concept called Neoconservative? Ultimately, Vice is a film less about ideas than about events and some of the shady characters involved. I welcome its endeavour and found it attractively watchable, but for depth and understanding of my generation's equivalent of the Vietnam War, my generation needs this kind of film to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Alita: Battle Angel
The Favourite


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

October 05, 2019


October 05, 2019


Joker The trailer did its work, flashing images of anomie and fury perfectly pitched for these unstable times of precarious working conditions, grievance and institutional indifference. For these same reasons, Joker , directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist, has attracted pre-release criticisms like few other recen...
September 29, 2019

Resisting Whiteness event 2019

Resisting Whiteness one-day event, Edinburgh Returning for the second consecutive year, Resisting Whiteness came yesterday to the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh, providing an intense and inspiring series of panels, as well as a wonderful spoken word section, and a final segment based around the documentary short Invisible by internationally-acclaim...
August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...
August 13, 2019

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem It starts with a heartbeat, the dancer-directors Lizzie and Ayden in slow-motion entry, setting the scene of a nightclub featuring two young transgender bodies who are in fact multiple. Sound Cistem is theatrical dance set to a series of pulsing, dance-floor rhythms and the voices of several trans interviewees projec...
August 04, 2019

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles The blurring of human and machine reiterates here in a comedically surreal, startling performance by the performance poet Harry Josephine Giles. Drawing on visual and aural effects, Giles presents the disturbingly evocative middle-class arc of the life of an electronic, military drone. With Giles as both narrator and ...
August 03, 2019

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza Playing currently at the Traverse Theatre is Travis Alabanza's poignant and comic one-person show, a thought-provoking meditation created out of a jarring personal experience. Back in 2016, Alabanza, a non-binary person of colour, was abused in a London street, with a burger thrown at them by a stranger. The show's series...
August 03, 2019

While transphobes get more hateful, I become more freckly

While transphobes got more hateful, I became more freckly Written weeks after the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International There's nothing good to say, even the films I enjoyed watching this past week, Midsommar and Apollo 11 , I've lost the Sunday will to write. Perhaps Brexit Britain will become like the village cult in Midsommar , bu...
June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3, Godzilla: my reflections

Three fantasy movies within three days: X Men: Dark Phoenix; John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum; Godzilla: King of the Monsters The Lacanian feminist Kaja Silverman says about cinema, we go because we need the affirmation, to see the things we hope to see and fail to see in the real world. In Lacanian-speak, Silverman says we go because 'the desire ...