Our Brand Is Crisis stars Sandra Bullock as Jane Bodine, a political campaign strategist who has been out of the game for a while. Taking refuge in the middle of nowhere and devoting her life to pottery making, she is a rather damaged person who has battled depression, alcohol and substance abuse. She makes no apologies for her past but it clearly has taken a toll on her emotional state. Her “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the ONLY thing” attitude has taken its toll on the figures she is campaigning for, as well. After a long hiatus from the political arena, she is asked to head up the campaign for Pedro Gallo running for the Bolivian Presidency in 2002. Thirty points behind and up against her arch rival, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thorton), she has an almost insurmountable task.
Based on the documentary of the same name from 2005, Our Brand Is Crisis is based mostly on the true story of the 2002 Bolivian election. I am sure there are some artistic licenses that have been taken, but overall, I dug this film. It is not perfect and has some real pacing issues, but it is exceedingly well acted and I was invested in these characters. Rachel Boynton and Peter Straughan’s script is an acidic mix of comedy, satire with heartfelt drama added in that I connected with. It does a good job of creating a chaotic time, with everybody trying to outsmart everyone else in trying to coming in first on election day. There is quite a bit of comedy in this film, but the drama is what hooked me in. There is plenty of that, as well. I also found it interesting how much the campaigners and the candidates they represent are constantly at odds with one another. In the end, you don’t know who is playing each other more effectively, the campaigners or the candidates. You only see that either one of them wants you to see, but behind the cameras there is another world to see.
The casting is terrific with Bullock playing a rather surly, but very capable campaigner. She is reluctantly drawn into this, but once she gets her groove on, she is tough as nails. Billy Bob Thorton plays Candy with a smooth confidence that adds some fear into Bodine’s psyche. If anybody can get under her skin, it is him. Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Zoe Kazan, Reynaldo Pacheco, Scoot McNairy all are very solid as Bodine’s aides trying to get Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) elected. Joaquim de Almeida is also quite good as Castillo. He plays his character as someone who comes across as stiff, unlikable and not very smart but, he turns out to be more crafty and cunning than his election team suspects. David Wingo provides another excellent score that fits the drama unfolding. It does not overwhelm the story and kept me interested in these characters and their stories.
Director David Gordon Green is a fine director having directed some rather excellent dramas like Undertow from 2004 with Dermot Mulroney, Josh Lucas and Jamie Bell, Joe (Nicolas Cage) from 2013 and last year’s Manglehorn (Al Pacino). He has also tried his hand at directing some comedies, although Pineapple Express is more than likely his best comedy direction. The other two being The Sitter (Jonah Hill) and Your Highness (David Franco and Danny McBride). Both of which were savaged by critics and audiences as unfunny and offensively stupid. So Gordon’s forte is darker more thoughtful dramas and although he takes his time, sometimes too much time, developing the stories and progressing the characters, Our Brand Is Crisis was interesting and satisfying. Unlike the current election cycle, it was over in a couple of hours, which was a blessing. If you don’t like politics and are bored by it, then Our Brand Is Crisis is not for you. But, if any part of you is interested in what goes on behind the scenes, what goes into a candidacy for any elected office, then this film is for you.
Our Brand Is Crisis – *** 1/2 out of 5
Our Brand Is Crisis – Rated R for harsh language, brief nudity and some violence
Our Brand Is Crisis – Run Time is 107 minutes
Our Brand Is Crisis is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription movie channels.