Our Brand is Crisis

Director: David Gordon Green

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan, Joaquim de Almeida

Rated: R (language including some sexual references)

A battle-hardened American political consultant is sent to help re-elect a controversial president in Bolivia, where she must compete with a long-term rival working for another candidate.

 

Our Brand is Crisis

By Cole Schneider

“Our Brand Is Crisis” has no identity and everytime it tries to be something it fails. It pretends to be a satire. Then it pretends to be a rivalry movie. Then it pretends to be a morality tale. Ultimately it pretends to have an earned sentimentality.

The film follows Jane (Sandra Bullock), a washed out political advisor. She knows how to run a campaign and is willing to play dirty; and she is hired to help a Bolivian presidential candidate, Castillo, who doesn’t seem to have a chance. She’s constantly quoting Sun Tzu and others, reducing history’s great thinkers to platitudinous bores.

Chief among the problems, though, is the film’s assumption that we are to cheer for this instrument of manipulation. Every time she succeeds it wants us to cheer when it should be dour. Even as deadpan satire this doesn’t work because we’re simply too frustrated to be on the same page. Simply, the film’s political cynicism is redundant to the post-modern American audience.

Why would we watch “Our Brand Is Crisis” when we can turn on the news anytime and see a more compelling circus play out. Castillo simply isn’t an interesting enough character for which to build a brand around in the celebrity gossip age of Donald Trump.

If you want to engage in entertaining commentary about the transparency between politics and marketing there are better alternatives including last year’s “Hunger Games” movie–just in time to revisit before the final installment is released later this month–or the journalism exercise from the late genius David Foster Wallace covering the McCain campaign in 2008 for Rolling Stone (it has since been titled, “Up, Simba”).

2 out of 5 Stars

 

Our Brand is Crisis

By Matt Greene

A behind-the-scenes look at the sleazy world of campaign strategists should be a fascinatingly fruitful well, with real-life implications and front-page story corruptions. Throw in talented indie-turned-big-time director Green and the ever-watchable Bullock, it’s surprising that Our Brand is Crisis is such a dry and pandering piece of historical drama. Committing the unforgivable sins of thinking it’s more charming and important than it is, Our Brand’s only crisis is being arguably the most forgettable movie of 2015.

Based on the true story of the 2002 Bolivian presidential campaign, Bullock plays an apparently genius strategist who is called on to help a man low in the polls pull out a win. We know she is “good” and her story is “important” because the movie keeps telling us in so many clumsy words instead of allowing us to deduce it from the narrative. What we do deduce is less than flattering: instead of seeming like a genius maverick, she just seems like a loud, brash and mostly unqualified (until the predictable end) white savior. Not to mention the inherent problem of the “heroics” of a person who is single-handedly destroying the Democratic process, handled with a slap-dash of forced satire.

The one bright spot is the bawdy, mean-spirited comedy between Bullock and her opposing arch-nemesis Thornton, whose fun interplay provides a couple laughs. Otherwise none of the characters or themes are nearly as cool or insightful as they need to be or think they are. If you want to see the ups-and-downs of democracy in action, watch Clooney’s The Ides of March or Larrain’s No. Just stay away from this confused wreck of a movie.

1 out of 5 Stars

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