Our Brand Is Crisis Review - Ruthless, but Redeemable, Political Strategists Play at Politics

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Our Brand is Crisis, from Warner Bros., Participant Media and Ratpak-Dune Entertainment, and Oscar winning producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov, pit fan favorite Sandra Bullock against Billy Bob Thornton as ruthless, but redeemable, political strategists trying to swing the vote.

Directed by David Gordon Green, Our Brand of Crisis an outrageous but true story, also stars Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan, Dominic Flores and Reynaldo Pancheco with Joaquim De Almedia as the un-electable Presidential hopeful, Castillo.

Adapted for the screen by Peter Straughan suggested by the documentary by Rachel Boynton, which detailed the real 2002 Bolivian Presidential race and the extreme campaign marketing tactics.

Our Brand is Crisis begins with headlines splashing across the screen as Ben, played by Anthony Mackie, and Nell, played by Ann Dowd, drive through a snowstorm in the middle of Utah trying to convince themselves and each other of the merit of approaching the reclusive and retired “Calamity” Jane Bodine, played by Bullock, who was once considered the best in the business, able to elect the un-electable.

Ben and Nell have already assembled a team and are heading to Bolivia for the duration of the election and need the magic of the available Bodine.

Of course the clincher is the opportunity once again to be in the ring with Pat Candy, sleek, ruthless, no nonsense, no emotion, ‘I say who, I say when’ just so  they pay, type of strategist,played by Billy Bob Thornton.

Jane Bodine and Pat Candy are known 'frenemies' trading witticisms and sarcasm, all nicely veiled in pleasantries. The opposing strategists have had a long, love-hate professional relationship. They have an ability to know, understand, read and interpret each others action, motivations, effectiveness and need.

As any good strategist knows a close race results in only one thing, dirty tricks and mudslinging. Our two, ‘it’s only a job’ strategists have unloaded their share of both. The one thing that separates them, of course, is the ability to step over the dead bodies or ruined lives and walk on without issue.

Bodine arrives in Bolivia, a changed women so to speak, the altitude sickness is immediate and between the disheveled appearance, the oxygen mask, and the sudden urge to vomit every time Presidential Candidate Castillo speaks her reputation as a game changer turns into a one person wrecking machine.

Our Brand is Crisis continues along this dark comedy vein with moments of genuine comedic lightheartedness, with Bullock shining and carrying the entertaining humorous moments pitting herself against the cool under pressure strategist, Pat Candy.

A night in the field meeting the people ends up becoming the tipping point as Bodine, partying the night away, winds up in jail, her history of depression splashed across every Bolivian newspaper.

Her coined phrase “our brand is crisis” becomes a philosophy as she make her pitch to keep her job. Suddenly she has decided the people, the moment, the win is more important than simply a scorecard victory.

Bodine and team, Ben, Nell, Buckley, played by Scoot McNairy, and LeBlanc, the ultra-researcher, the best in the business for finding the untraceable, long dead and buried skeletons banging on the door of the, really it is sealed, closest, played by Zoe Kazan, bring their A game as the numbers begin to shift and Castillo the un-electable becomes Castillo the possible.

The film highlights the economic landscape and concerns of South America, the recent Middle Eastern upheavals are becoming the same tool for the people in Bolivia. Large vocal demonstrations and social media send out to the world the once covered and hidden, exposing corruption and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Traveling through the high country presents serious issues of foreign concern. The get rich quick verses the man of the people, and in all honestly in the beginning the film is clear, elections aren’t about the betterment of the people it is about the strategist and the team behind them.

While not planned, the film offers keen unfortunate insight into the current political scene in the United States, The highly favored, the underdog, the hopeful and a jaded constituency. While the mud and dirt hasn’t flown like speed balls that day is coming.

The film, unapologetically and without intent, presents an insider’s view at the beginning of what has all the benchmarks of being a long, arduous and distastefully dirty U.S political season.

Strictly for entertainment the film does play into the current political themes and with the heat up so high so fast it’s hard not to draw comparisons. Or find an insider’s backroom view into the real behind the scenes happenings.

Our Brand is Crisis is a dramedy, mixing the high points of Bullock’s comedic skill with the truth as the story unfolds behind her character’s retirement comes out.

There are moments of lightheartedness and the truth of this film is about marketing an un-electable candidate, transforming him into a man of the people, crafting a message the he can present and embody down to the each detail.

Special mention of course to Joaquim de Almedia, a seasoned talent who brings a wealth of experience and presents Castillo, the man, the myth, the legend.

Straying from the laugh out loud throughout comedies that Ms. Bullock handles with ease, Our Brand is Crisis, offers high moments of her zaniness, with depth as she burrows in for the kill.

The film is an ensemble opportunity as each member of the team has ample screen time to bring solid character moments.

During the media day, which will follow, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan as well as Producer Grant Heslov and Director David Gordon Green each offered insight into their personal lives and the moments in history that changed them, effected or left and inedible mark on their lives shaping both person and political persuasion.

Our Brand is Crisis opens everywhere October 30, 2015. Check your local listings. 


Image used courtesy of, and with permission of, Warner Bros Studio Entertainment.

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