Tuesday, 15 September 2015

TIFF Review: Our Brand Is Crisis

Our Brand Is Crisis, 2015
Directed by David Gordon Green

Our Brand Is Crisis focuses on a group of American campaign strategists working on a presidential campaign in Bolivia. "Calamity" Jane Bodine is retired. But she's one of the best strategists and she gets offered the job of working the campaign for Castillo, a man who was previously President but had an unsuccessful run. But what really brings her back from retirement is the opportunity to face off again against Pat Candy, her old rival, whom she has yet to beat. Reluctantly going down to Bolivia, Jane is apathetic until Castillo plays right into the hands of candy, punching a prankster in the face as he's leaving a press conference. But thus launches their new brand. Their brand is Crisis, and the fact that Bolivia, a poor and unsettled country, is in one and that they need an iron fist to lead them.

I'm just going to put it out there that this movie is not going to be Oscar fare. It could possibly get Sandra Bullock some attention, but even that I doubt at this point.

With that being said, the movie itself isn't bad. It's a shiny and fun, yet somewhat biting and cynical look at American campaign strategists. These consultants always have tricks up their sleaves, and Jane and Candy are constantly trying to pull a new one on each other. Everyone is trying to screw the other one over. Or they're releasing something that makes themselves look bad, trying to make it look like the opposition, to either get what they want, or smear the other team. Everything is premeditated and everyone is lying.

Sandra Bullock is pitch perfect for the role of Jane. It's nothing exactly new for her and it feels like an amalgamation of a bunch of characters Bullock has played in the last few years. It's perfectly written for her. That being said, the movie doesn't give her much of an arc that would make her Best Actress material. Sure, it's a good performance, but it's more of a funny one than anything.

Billy Bob Thornton was in this a lot less than I expected, given that he has second billing on this. He only pops up every so often, and often is lingering in the background, or offering up a very short back and forth with Jane. But the film truly does shine when the two of them are going at each other. Both are incredibly smart and both love screwing the other over.

A particularly great scene involved Jane's bus trying to overtake Candy's on a small one-way road through the jungle of Bolivia. I won't spoil it, but it had my theatre in absolute stitches.

The supporting cast aren't given a whole lot to do. Anthony Mackie does what he can with the little he's given, Joaquim de Almeida is good as Castillo, and Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy and Zoe Kazan are there to serve as small background characters.

Overall, Our Brand Is Crisis is a decent film, but is in no way on the level of Argo. What's sad, is that it could've been much better. I can't put my finger on quite what, but it just wasn't what it could've been. I know many people thought it was quite cynical look, but I don't think that was the problem either. It was appropriately cynical, and was almost really honest. It was just a few steps away from really good, but settled with just being alright.

Our Brand Is Crisis will be in theatres October 30th 2015


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