It’s been a crappy October for new films at box office. And “Our Brand is Crisis” is one of those films that has flopped both critically and sales wise. One might say that films for October are in a “crisis.” However, I have to disagree with critics on this one. “Our Brand is Crisis” may not be a perfect film, but it is sure enjoyable and boosted by another winning performance from Sandra Bullock.
The film is produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov (producers of “Argo” and “August: Osage County”), which may have excited a lot of people thanks to the success of “Argo.” Yes, “Argo” is a better film, but director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) and writer Peter Straughan (“Tinker Tailor Solider Spy”) have crafted a political satire dramedy that is pure Fall enjoyment. It starts off a bit slow, but then comes in for some punches.
A retired political consultant, “Calamity” Jane (Bullock), has just been approached by Nell (played by Ann Dowd) and Ben (played by Anthony Mackie) to be the political consultant for Bolivian politician Pedro Castillo (played by Joaquim de Almeida) during their presidential election. Jane is hesitant at first after a situation that has haunted her for years, but when Nell breaks the news that her arch nemesis, Pat Candy (played by Billy Bob Thorton), is the opposition’s political consultant, Jane decides to give in.
The team heads to Bolivia right away, where Jane is sick as a dog from the altitude changes. It takes her awhile to get herself in the game, after eyeing Castillo and thinking he seems checked out from the election. But then a run in with Pat changes Jane’s attitude, and she goes running full force.
As always, with politics comes dirty games. Jane pulls out the old tricks, with the help of researcher LeBlanc (played by Zoe Kazan), to make the opposition look bad, even though Pat seems know Jane’s tactics after being her nemesis for quite a long time. The two of them have a screwed up past that reveals a secret halfway through the film. It’s the real reason why Jane decided to retire and removed herself from socialization.
As the film goes on, the audience starts to see more dirty tactics, intense moments between politicians and their staff and also crisis within a country more firmly against Castillo. However, it’s up to Jane to improve his numbers and get him that presidential spot, even if it means throwing all sense of morality out the window.
Sandra Bullock is a joy to watch on screen as Jane (a role meant for George Clooney). She is damaged, but funny and at times raw. I honestly think it’s her best performance since “The Blind Side,” trumping her Oscar nomination for “Gravity.” Her and Billy Bob Thorton have some excellent scenes together, even if it feels like Thorton has stepped into his role from “Primary Colors.” Finally, the rest of the cast does a solid job even though this film is certainly Bullock’s.
Director David Gordon Green is known for more outrageous comedies like “Pineapple Express,” as well as more serious films like “Joe.” However, he finds a pretty good balance between comedy and drama, even if it at times it felt like the tone was a little off. The screenplay from Peter Straughan starts off slow, but then has some real kicker moments. I loved the banter between Bullock and Thorton, especially when Bullock manages to get a hold his campaign badge and tells a train to start moving during one of the opposition’s speech. Plus, usually I would say the partying scene was a little too much for a film like this, but it did have some pretty comical moments.
“Our Brand is Crisis” stuck well with me for the most part, thanks to Sandra Bullock. I don’t think its terrible, like critics are saying. I think their hopes were set too high, and they just needed to sit back and enjoy. Rated R.