Our Brand Is Crisis movie full length review - "It's personal" ... "It's like a Sicilian blood-feud"
Competing Bolivian Presidential candidates hire competing campaign teams and spin-doctors from the USA. This was the true scenario for a 2005 documentary made by Rachel Boynton.
The documentary entitled 'Our Brand Is Crisis' has now inspired the making of this film of the same name. This reviewer has not seen that documentary and therefore will review this film solely on it's own merits. However, if the events in the documentary were similar to the fictional events in the film, then it was clear that this film deserved to get made.
The film opens with sound only and we quickly realize that someone is getting miked up for an interview. Then the vision comes on to reveal a very beautiful Sandra Bullock. She is asked to look back to earlier days, thus this film starts out like 'Up Close & Personal' (1996). However, rather than focusing on the media, this film concentrates on politics, but not so much the politicians, but rather the spin-doctors who operate the dark arts.
Two political campaigners, in reality public-relations people, want to recruit an expendable spin-doctor. Thus they approach Sandra Bullock's character, known as Calamity Jane because of her past failures. She is now retired, and has now gone hippie, and spends her time making pots. They attempt to recruit her to save the failing campaign of a faded and uninspiring candidate. More impressed with his good-looking opponent, she only agrees to help when it is revealed that her spin-doctor arch- enemy, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is working for the opponent.
The early Bolivian scenes are played mainly for laughs, as are some other scenes in the film. A chase is a standout hilarious scene. Some of the interplay between Miss Bullock and Mr Thornton is also very funny as well as clever and witty. Peter Straughan should be applauded for his screenplay.
However, the film is not all laughs by any means. Rather it is a drama, with some comedy, some of it black. Calamity Jane is really like a fish out of water in the early political scenes. However, an event, which will be immediately recognizable to many British viewers, as it mirrors a real-life event, brings the campaign to life, and Calamity Jane, as she chooses fear over love, thus takes the film down a different road than the UK reality. The reference to Niccolo Machiavelli, is not the only one in the film. Sun Tzu quotes are also thrown around as the political spin-doctors wage war in this intelligent and serious political drama.
Calamity Jane's candidate for President is played by Joaquim de Almeida. He plays an uninspiring, distrusted, and even despised, former President, attempting to get back into power. At the very least he seems to lack the common touch. Mr Almeida, in 'Only You' (1994), played a suave and sophisticated love interest. Here, Mr Almeida, as the presidential candidate, slowly starts to show some of that same charisma. However, his opponent, played by Louis Arcella, seems much more charismatic, (and looks rather like the footballer Maradonna btw). Both actors in their roles as presidential hopefuls seem authentic, so too the scenes of debates and meetings.
Bolivian-born actor Reynaldo Pacheco gives a breathtakingly good performance as a campaign worker. Zoe Kazan who played the title role in 'Ruby Sparks' (2012), Ann Dowd, and Anthony Mackie, all also give good support as members of the campaign team.
Sandra Bullock, renowned for her comedy and romantic roles, in 2013 starred in the space-drama 'Gravity'. Here her fans will love and hate in equal measures the character she plays in this entertaining and funny, but serious, political drama. It is said that politics is show- business for ugly people. Some politicians are acclaimed like rock- stars. However, the very best spin-doctors from half-way round the world, are sought after, like world-class footballers who are transferred between clubs and across continents for large sums of money.
Director David Gordon Green did not put a foot wrong in this very impressive film. The cast all gave tremendous performances. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney produced this film, but it is no vanity project, but rather a very serious political drama that builds to a very powerful and tense climax. The film thus entertains, informs, and educates, rather like the recent 'The Big Short' (2016), and all involved should be rightly proud of their work. 10/10.