Saturday, November 7, 2015

Movie Review #336: "Our Brand is Crisis" (2015)

Movie"Our Brand is Crisis"
Director: David Gordon Green
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
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"Calamity" Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) has been hired to run the campaign of unpopular candidate Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), who is running for president of Bolivia, but is over 20 points down in the polls. Her biggest rival, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), runs the campaign of presidential front-runner Victor Rivera (Louis Arcella). Both of them bring American style politics to Bolivia and both Jane and Pat will do or say anything to win the election for their candidate.

"Our Brand is Crisis" is a dark political satire loosely inspired by the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. Sandra Bullock plays campaign advisor "Calamity" Jane Bodine, who came out of retirement to take on the seemingly unwinable campaign of Pedro Castillo, a wealthy veteran politician who is having trouble relating to the majority of the Bolivian citizens who live in poverty. She took on the campaign because her biggest rival, Pat Candy, played by Billy Bob Thornton, turned out to be running the campaign of the election front-runner Victor Rivera, played by Louis Arcella, a very popular candidate among the poor and impoverished population of Bolivia. Jane and Pat show the candidates and citizens of Bolivia how American politics works as they dig up whatever dirt they can on their opponents, and sometimes even their own candidates just in case. For Jane and Pat, there is no morality in politics and the only thing that matters is winning. Victor Rivera runs on a platform of hope and change, and Jane knows the narrative must change. She knows a man like Castillo cannot win trying to sell hope, especially since he was president once before, so he must spread fear and push a message of how badly Bolivia is in a crisis situation. Fear is a bigger manipulator than hope, and when people are scared, they tend to gravitate towards candidates like Castillo.

This film does an amazing job showing the ugly side of American politics even though it takes place in Bolivia. Sandra Bullock puts on a good performance in this film, as does her supporting cast. Really, she is their commanding leader, their dark knight in a shitstorm of political strategy. Bullock can be both hard-nosed and fragile at the same time. When she is going at it with Billy Bob Thornton, who makes an excellent adversary, this is when they both shine, even if it's in a smarmy manner. Thornton offers up just the right amount of assholishness mixed with the right amount of charm. Their back and forth battle begins as bickering, but advances into much, much worse the longer the film progresses. Other performances include Anthony Mackie as Ben, the optimistic newcomer who is convinced what they are doing matters; Ann Dowd's Nell, the veteran political strategist with a softer side; Scoot McNairy's Buckley, who is for some inexplicable reason made to be illiterate or dyslexic in several distracting instances; Reynaldo Pacheco's Eddie, a wide-eyed local who supports Castillo and ends up working directly for his campaign; and Zoe Kazan's LeBlanc, a supreme dirt digger and Spanish speaker who needed way more time to shine in the mud. Unfortunately, there are some scenes that seem a little tedious and make the movie drag during some points. The middle of the film feels muddled from time to time, and this can give it a sluggish, slow feeling overall.

After seeing "Our Brand is Crisis" and reading several poor reviews for it, we don't know what some people are smoking. Sure, it's not the best film we've ever seen, but was it entertaining? Hell yes it was. It's funny in the right places, has lots of great performances, and is full of quotes and an unflinching yet satirical look at American style politics and their impact on other nations around the world. It might not be "Argo," it might not contain anything new or be something we haven't seen before when compared to political satires that came before it, but it was a decent enough watch to enjoy on a Thursday afternoon with a great friend. It contains an interesting story and was nowhere near as bad as critics are saying. Don't believe everything you read on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, folks.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 33%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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