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Based on the 2005 documentary of the same name, Sandra Bullocks newest project aims to entertain the lowest common denominator that is interested in political satires, meaning there may actually be more joy to come from this film than expected. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS is funny, suspenseful, unpredictable and surprisingly captivating. Be weary of early reviews for this film as they may be more harsh than David Gorden Green’s (GEORGE WASHINGTON) film deserves. In era that many may choose to wait for DVD for a release like this, Our Brand Is Crisis offers heart and a strong moral with a screenplay that just keeps the audience engaged, “period”.
The film is based around the 2002 Bolivian presidential election where a failing-in-the-polls politician hires an American political consulting firm to help win the campaign. The firm, Greenberg Carville Shrum, brings in retired strategist “Calamity” Jane Jodine (Sandra Bullock) to manage the campaign. In order to take candidate Castillo out of the pit Jane must go up against her slimy nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thorton). The two of them will do whatever it takes to get the “win” even if it isn’t necessarily morally right.
Our Brand Is Crisis isn’t necessarily about the actual troubled campaign itself, but rather what Jane and her team must do to convince the people of Bolivia to believe in this man, Castillo. He’s your arrogant, stone-faced, cold candidate that comes across as just that. The hilarity comes from the antics they must partake in to change the public’s perception, but at what costs? The film arises many questions that may hit close to home. These are American strategists that even take note how Americans love their negative ads, but that the Bolivians will not gravitate to any candidate who does the same. Jane’s team must figure out what’s Castillo’s brand, what is he selling, and why citizens can trust him.
The brand of course is “crisis” and the team is out there convincing the public that Bolivia is heading towards an epic crisis that only their candidate can lead them out of. For a moment their tactic feels real and genuine, but at times the lines become blurred leaving no idea what’s right and flat out wrong. It opens many questions that relate to America and probably many other countries.
Beyond the “better than what others are saying” screenplay, the cast is as strong as it can be with a top-notch performance from Sandra Bullock and a creepy egotistical performance from Billy Bob Thorton that just seems to fit perfectly. His clever near-sadistic one-liners and punch-worthy smirks made him an ideal antagonist. There are break out performances, maybe not Oscar worthy, but memorable, including the films innocent blind follower and supporter of Castillo, “Eddie” (Reynaldo Pacheco) who’s performance could be the make it or break it for the entire film. Well, he nails it!
The subplot features Eddie and his friends and how they fit into the political atmosphere of Bolivia along with their disagreements toward the candidates. However, it’s the time they spend with Jane that would later become a focal point of the film that I believe made Our Brand Is Crisis standout for me.
The ensemble of a cast also includes Jane’s team of strategists with the likes of Anthony Mackie (Avengers), Ann Dowd (The Leftovers), Scoot McNair, and Zoe Kazan. All a clear character within themselves and never distracting but nearly a perfect support. The group is well-rounded and mostly likable; perhaps forgettable but nothing that brings the film down. The team provides plenty of humor and that gives the film its own sense of self.
Our Brand Is Crises raises many questions of our a political makeup, but doesn’t stop there. There are many themes that can work toward life in general rather than just politics. It asks the right questions and proves a moral that has more to do what we can all do rather than what our leaders can do for us. There may be a very famous quote that pertains to this.
It’s not a film that will get a ton a people to the theaters, but it is a film that has a place in today’s society. It is timely and thoughtful. It’s worth the trip to the theater, but sadly I know it will still end up being seen on a tiny screen by many when a premium channel puts it on repeat in the future. I’m glad I got to see this one in the theater.