One would think spoiler alerts wouldn't be needed for a cinematic portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney, but consider this one for those who prefer to play it safe.
In the film Vice, director Adam McKay weaves together the stories of Cheney (Christian Bale) and the people in his inner circle, like his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) and mentor Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), but still carves out time to introduce a character named Kurt (Jesse Plemons), the narrator who the filmmakers describe as "the emotional center" of the movie.
We learn of Kurt’s working-class upbringing, see him raise a family, and catch glimpses of his military past before he suddenly dies. The big twist of Vice (again, SPOILER ALERT) is that Kurt is the person whose heart was donated to the vice president for a transplant in 2012.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, McKay broke down his line of thinking in creating the symbolic character.
"First and foremost, the movie is a character portrait of Dick Cheney, and because it's Dick Cheney, it's also Lynne Cheney. And then, it's also a bit of a portrait of America as America changed through these decades, and that's obviously, I would say, what Plemons symbolizes," he said.
The intent was that, through Kurt, the audience is “seeing America change and go through this life as he's changing,” all the way until he is struck and killed by a van, McKay said.
“He's responding to Cheney's America,” he added. “And at the same time, in the end, making the ultimate sacrifice so Cheney can move on.”
But here's another twist that isn't entirely clear in the movie: Kurt is not actually based on whoever had donated their heart to save Cheney’s life.
McKay said he thought of adding a clarifying line in the film where Plemons says something like, "There's no way to know who the real guy is, but I match the specs."
However, the director ultimately decided to take it out.
"Everyone gets it," he said. "You don't know who it is."
Still, McKay said he's second-guessed whether he should have made it explicitly clear in the film that Kurt is a figment of his imagination.
"I always wondered, maybe I should've left that line in there, but whatever," he said. "It's definitely not him. No one knows who it is."