How Christian Bale Uses Silence to Speak Volumes in ‘Vice’ | Anatomy of a Scene

A phone call. A quiet exchange between husband and wife. A dog painting. On the surface, this scene from the Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” may seem a bit mundane. But a more low-key moment, in a film full of zany ones (A. O. Scott called the movie “a hectic blend of psychohistory, domestic drama and sketch-comedy satire”), turns out to be seismic.

About that phone call: It comes at a point when Cheney’s life seems to be heading in a more serene direction. But the call ends up taking him on a U-turn right back to Washington. Narrating the scene, the writer-director Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) said he wanted everything in the film to slow down at that moment. In the call, and in the conversation that Cheney has with his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams), the drama is found in his silences.

And regarding that dog painting, McKay said it was already in the house that they used for this shoot (a home he said that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West once considered buying). It’s of an eager little dog barking at a big dog with a stick. McKay saw it as symbol of the relationship between George W. Bush and his vice president. “Cheney’s this big dog, but the little dog thinks he’s in charge,” he said.

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