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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Our Brand Is Crisis | Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Joaquim de Almeida | Review

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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4lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD

 

Our Brand Is Crisis

The screenplay for Our Brand is Crisis, a political drama laced with humor, was“inspired” by Rachel Boynton's 2005 documentary of the same name that dealt with a pair of American political consultants' involvement in a 2002 Bolivian presidential election.  The key word is “inspired”, because Our Brand Is Crisis is a fictionalized version of the actual events, with plenty of creative license put into play.

Sandra Bullock, in a role that was originally intended for George Clooney (one of the film's producers) brings her formidable skills as a comedic and dramatic actress to the plate, turning in a fantastic performance (her best since her Oscar winning role in The Blind Side)  as “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a top notch political strategist who moved to a secluded cabin in the woods after a series of disastrous consulting gigs left her depressed and burnt out. Her retired, laid back life is put on hold after Jane is tracked down and recruited by a pair of campaign managers (Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd) to fly to Bolivia and help the struggling campaign of former President Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), who wants to regain his office, but is trailing badly in the polls, with his main competition being the more likable, man of the people, Victor Rivera (Louis Arcella).

What piques Jane's interest in coming aboard is learning that the man behind Rivera's campaign happens to be none other than her professional nemesis, the cunning, equally brilliant political consultant, Pat Candy (a terrific, bald headed Billy Bob Thornton, modeled after James Carville) whose candidates have beaten hers repeatedly in the past.  For Jane, this time it is personal.

Although clumsy and suffering from altitude sickness upon arriving in the foreign country, Jane proves her worth by coming up with a brilliant strategy to sell her candidate to the voting masses, after her attempt to improve Castillo's image doesn't cut it.  Her plan involves creating a brand for Castillo, in this case an economic “crisis” and portraying him as the only man able to fix it if he is elected.  From Jane's experience in the political arena, “voters elect the new guy when they are hopeful, but fall back on the familiar when they are scared”.

Her task isn't easy as she is faced with obstacles coming from the opposing Candy who devises some stunts to sabotage her campaign.  That leads Jane, in full competitive mode, forced to fight dirt with dirt, and out wit and out play Candy, because, first and foremost, it is all about winning, at whatever means it takes.

The fine supporting cast includes Reynaldo Pacheco as Eddie, an orphaned young local idealist working on Castillo's campaign, and Zoe Kazan as Sarah LeBlanc, a smart young researcher Jane flies in to dig up some dirt on Castillo's main opponent that makes him appear as a Nazi sympathizer.

As far as I am concerned, I would have preferred if the slapstick moments that includes a frantic bus chase on a winding mountain hillside, as well a bizarre scene involving a Llama being hit by a car, was left on the cutting room floor since each was unnecessary and off putting.

In spite of its occasional foray into silliness, Our Brand is Crisis is, for the most part, well executed, marked by excellent performances, and works as an eye opening peak into the behind the scenes manipulations, lies, and dirty tactics that goes into a political campaign. While it doesn't paint a pretty picture, Our Brand of Crisis sends strong sociopolitical and ethical messages within its framework and manages to be highly entertaining.

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