There is a moment towards the beginning of Adam McKay’s film about Dick Cheney, where we see the vice president being grabbed by a secret service agent and bundled down to the depths of the White House. It is the morning of 11 September 2001, two hijacked planes have already struck New York, and amid the chaos it’s believed another captured flight is heading for “Crown”, codename for the White House. “Mr Vice President, we’ve got to leave now,” Cheney recalls agent Jimmy Scott telling him, in his 2011 book In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir.
In the film, Vice, as in the book, we see Cheney quickly assuming charge. George W Bush has just been evacuated from an elementary school in Florida, and there are reports that several other planes may be heading to the nation’s capital. What are the military’s orders, Cheney is asked. Shoot them down, he responds.
That moment is perhaps the strongest in the movie, for it immediately links Cheney to events of that day and the so-called War on Terror that followed, something with which he will forever be associated. It may also be the moment in which the bulked up Christian Bale most effectively captures Cheney – gruff, resolute and menacing, the man who would become the most powerful vice president in history.
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