- Review by Kaya Savas - January 9, 2018
Oscar-nominated composer, Nicholas Britell continues his collaboration with director Adam McKay on Vice. The political satire film focuses on Dick Cheney’s rise from quiet Washington insider to one of the most powerful men in the country. The score is another fantastic effort from Nicholas Britell, who has quickly shown how versatile and precise he can be as a musical storyteller. While Vice as a film may have some structural issues, and not everything director McKay shoots for lands with total grace, it’s in Britell’s intricate score where we find a brilliant narrative shape and exploration of a man.
Britell’s thematic center of the film lies right on Dick Cheney, the score opens with “The Lineman - Prelude And Development”, which is a fascinating musical accompaniment to the character of Dick Cheney. The piece embodies power and weight, as a lineman would have. But there’s also this characteristic dissonance when the trumpets flare. Some of the notes don’t land and feel off. You feel this intimidating power, but by placing those dissonant notes you can feel that something is not right. In fact it has a Carter Burwell quality to the tone that really works well. This is injected into the score overall and works wonders to keep everything slightly off.
The rest of the score is brilliantly structured as well, it finds a way to capture this Americana sound while shaping moments in Cheney’s life as well as the people surrounding him. Britell manages to constantly be crafting a character as well as shaping the overall narrative, which is typically hard to do. Usually you see a score that mainly focuses on building a portrait of an iconic figure, or music that leaves that to the acting and instead shapes an overall big brushstroke. Here we have big brushstrokes as well as tiny little strokes, all building a score that has presence and nuance combined.
Vice is a wonderfully designed and executed musical narrative. It may inherit some of the film’s pacing and tonal issues, but it’s a wonderfully crafted work. Britell’s ability to hone in on the idea of the film as well as explore the emotional core of the characters shines bright here to make Vice an enjoyably engaging piece of Americana storytelling.