Our Brand Is Crisis
dir David Gordon Green
scr Peter Straughan
prd George Clooney, Grant Heslov
with Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Joaquim de Almeida, Zoe Kazan, Dominic Flores, Reynaldo Pacheco, Louis Arcella, Octavio Gomez BerrĂ­os, Luis Chavez
release US 30.Oct.15, UK 22.Jan.16
15/US Warner 1h47
Our Brand Is Crisis
Rival puppet-masters: Thornton and Bullock

mackie dowd mcnairy
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Our Brand Is Crisis Despite an uneven tone, this breezy political drama touches on several important themes as it freewheels through a scruffy story that's based loosely on real people. The film has an authenticity to it that holds the attention, even as it veers wildly between politics, comedy and even slapstick. And it's Sandra Bullock's committed performance that makes the film worth a look, along with what it says about the American political system.

After a scandal, campaign expert Jane (Bullock) withdrew to live far from the chaos. And now she's been convinced to return to lead a team (including Mackie, Dowd and McNairy) helping the out-of-touch Castillo (Almeida) regain momentum in his candidacy to be Bolivia's next president. As she adjusts to the high altitude in La Paz, Jane is annoyed to discover that her long-time rival Pat (Thornton) is running the campaign of Castillo's populist competitor (Arcella). So Jane brings in a secret weapon (Kazan) and cleverly rebrands the election as an urgent solution to Bolivia's "crisis".

Director Green keeps the film's tone on the loose side, which is somewhat disorienting for a story that's actually very serious. To do this, he focusses on Bolivia's colourful culture, avoiding the country's more sophisticated, modern aspects to create a wacky, uncivilised setting. This oddly lowers the stakes, making a nation of nearly 11 million people seem almost like an inconsequential plaything for political puppet-masters. But perhaps that's the point.

Of course, Bullock can effortlessly bridge any gaps between comedy and drama, and she's terrific as the self-deprecating grump who returns to life running a campaign for a candidate she doesn't like. Her cynicism is cleverly balanced by her love of the game, and Bullock shines in both silly and moving moments. On the other hand, she has very little to play against, since the supporting roles are so thinly written. The entire cast is excellent, but their considerable skills are underused.

The film has a crackling wit that holds the attention, mainly because the themes are so resonant, even if for every razor sharp moment there's a scene that feels eerily tepid. And much of the the energetic nuttiness is rather pointless. In the end, this is a terrific story about how easy it is for a relatively small number of people to manipulate voters and change the course of history. Which makes the film both important and scary.

cert 15 themes, language 10.Nov.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall