Sundance Review: 'The World According to Dick Cheney'

"The World According to Dick Cheney" is aptly named, as its chief strength is showing how hard the former VP works to control everything around him. It is perhaps too fleeting to really delve into the machinations and reasoning behind many decisions, but as a documentary, it's a highly effective examination of his work in politics.

From humble Wyoming beginnings and flunking out of Yale, Richard Cheney ascended to the top of the political heap in Washington, D.C., becoming the youngest White House Chief of Staff in history and a close confidant of President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld. The doc has a particularly emphasis on his time in the White House under President George W. Bush. Cheney was a key player in the decision to invade Iraq, as well as a major advocate of various torture methods and dubious surveillance techniques. Throughout, Cheney makes it clear that he is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals, and that being liked is not part of the equation for him.

The stories are told through extensive interviews, plenty of footage and a wide variety of photographs set elegantly to a pitch-perfect score. Political aficionados will be thrilled at the level of insider access and the interviews, especially the ones with Dick Cheney himself, who is open to answering any and all questions. Cheney is a commanding presence, perfectly calm and skilled at answering questions in such a way that you're convinced he either fully believes what he's saying or he's a terrific liar. Documentaries such as this only serve to confirm our fears that there is much dirty work that goes on behind the scenes.

As with any documentary, there appears to be an agenda at work. Though it is a rather glancing look at the administration of George W. Bush, it seems to let the the former president off the hook for many of the higher level executive decisions, pointedly attempting to demonstrate the level of control that Cheney enjoyed during his time in the White House. Cheney is painted as a political mastermind, capable of exerting force to achieve his ends, helpful to close political friends and allies and powerful against enemies. It's easy to see why he was so successful in the cutthroat world of politics.

Cheney is unruffled by any line of questioning, from inquiries into the atrocities of the Iraq War to conspiracy and coverup allegations. He's utterly assured that his decisions were the right ones, made out of a deep sense of loyalty to the United States and the conviction that they would protect and defend his country. The film is good but leaves much to be desired, especially in terms of more direct questions about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. With a bit more focus and perhaps interviews with individuals named, such as George W. Bush or Scooter Libby, "The World According to Dick Cheney" may have been an entirely different film. What we're left with is harrowing, disturbing at times and a fascinating glance into a world that often remains hidden to average Americans.

Grade: B+