HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Our Brand is Crisis
HTS Overall Score:69
With our own election for a presidential candidate just around the corner, “Our Brand is Crisis” is rather poignant and scathing in its presentation of the political games that are undertaken for the chosen candidate to win. I don’t think the U.S. has been this low in regards to public opinion of our electoral abilities in the last hundred years. Cynicism runs high and for good reason. The original intent of our democratic republic has been compromised by years of lifetime politicians living to be served by the people rather than serving. I’m not going to get political and say that one side is worse than the other, because sadly they aren’t. Both ends of the political spectrum are run by greed and corruption in a way that squeezes the life out of anyone who wants to TRULY serve the people. “Our Brand is Crisis” skips the look at the U.S., but rather shows two campaign managers duking it out on Bolivian soil, carving out the fate of this small South American country much the same way that we do here in our own.
Writer Peter Straughan wrote the screenplay for “Our Brand is Crisis” from a documentary of the same name directed by Rachel Boynton. The plots are not similar and the people are not the same, but Straughan adapted the ideas of the original documentary and crafted what we see before us today. Jane (Sandra Bullock) is a shark in a large pool of weaker sharks. A campaign manager who was famed for being the most successful and brutal campaign manager of her days. After losing to campaign manager Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) several times in a row, she retired to a life of simplicity, but years later her former associate Nell (Anne Dowd) is back at her doorstep with one final offer. The chance to beat Pat Candy in a campaign. This time it’s not in the U.S., as they are being hired out as private consultants to help Bolivian Senator Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida…. “Clear and Present Danger”) gain the presidency. The only problem is that Castillo was once President in the past and rather hated. Losing in the polls badly, Nell and her team are desperate for a win, and that’s where Jane comes in.
Jane is a bit awkward, and more then feisty enough to tick off everyone around her, but she is also the best chance this team has of winning the election. Surveying the situation and acting accordingly she turns the entire campaign around. However Pat Candy has beaten her in the past for good reason. His own campaign is going strong, even with Jane’s interference. Due to their previous history he is able to guess where Jane will attack next and strike out with his own counter assaults on their candidate. It soon become a wrestling match in the mud, as both sides slide dirt at the other amidst an every closing gap in poll percentage.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64154[/img]Despite being sharply written and intense at times, “Our Brand is Crisis” is rather discomforting to watch. The realities of the situation hit a bit too close to home and makes it hard to really root for anyone. It’s obvious that both the major candidates in the film are perpetual liars. You don’t have to read between too many lines to realize that Castillo was kicked out for a reason and that he’s up to no good now. Instead we see two campaign managers duke it out over unlikeable candidates. To make it worse, Jane herself isn’t any more likeable by the end of the movie than she was at the beginning. She supposedly redeems some part of herself, with her protest at the end, but it comes as too little, too late. The blunt end of the truth is that this is a decent movie about completely loathsome monsters. Jane and Candy are two peas in the pod, using every scummy tactic in the film to get their candidate the upper hand, but without someone or something likeable to hold onto the effort feels a bit hollow.
Bullock does a really nice job her, and not surprising considering her pedigree. She’s rather subdued, not playing the overly mousy and also not being as over the top wild as she has been in the past. Jane is believable and both unlikeable and strangely sympathetic at the same time. Mackie does a solid job as her conscience in the film (as much as he can be), while Almeida is naturally sleazy as Castillo. Almeida has always done a wonderful job at portraying villains, and while he seems to be a semi “hero” for part of the film, the creep factor whenever he talks is amped up quite nicely. Bill Bob is kind of the odd man out, as he feels strangely underutilized throughout the film. Just popping in here and there to make a crude or rude comment to Jane and then disappears for the next 15 minutes. For such an important campaign manager he really didn’t seem to do much besides stand around and smirk.
Rated R for language including some sexual references
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64162[/img]“Our Brand is Crisis” was shot IN Bolivia itself, and the South American country looks both magnificent and profoundly drab at the same time. Contrast is a bit hot and I noticed telltale boost to the white levels that seems to be a popular fad nowadays. Colors of the Bolivian out doors are rich and well saturated. The greens of the landscape are beautiful and the rich purple of the Castillo campaign bus stands out amongst the earthy browns of the mud covered poor areas. Blacks are a bit murky sometimes, with a little crush and a little banding obscuring some of the shadow detail. Fine detail is pleasing and solid, with a solidly sharp 1.78:1 picture that looks just a bit soft at times. Facial detail in up close shots is good, coupled with a solid grain structure that accents the rough look of the Bolivian living conditions. As I mentioned, there IS some softness, and the further away the shot is the more the softness shows up.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64170[/img]The sound mix for the film is expectedly front heavy, with a strong emphasis on the dialog above wild special effects coming from all 6 speakers. Vocals are crisp and clean, locked up front in the center channel, perfectly heard at all times. Surrounds get a solid amount of ambient noises coming through, especially during some of the more boisterous moments, such as the bus chase, or the wild rioting at the end of the film by frustrated citizens. Lfe is potent and punctuates the film at random intervals. Adding some strong low end support to the musical elements, there are also some very impressive bouts where the bass kicks it up a notch, such as the afore mentioned riot as well as a big party scene where the staff members are kicking it at a bar and get a little TOO sloshed.
• A Role Like No Other
“Our Brand is Crisis” is a bit of a frustrating film. It has all of the elements of a good film. Good leads, good backups, decent writers, but the film some home manages to just along on its laurels and delves into people that are really pretty monstrous. Except for young Eddie, there is not one SINGLE likeable character in the entire movie. The entire time I had this sensation of discomfort watching people do despicable things just to get a win. What makes it worse is that the subject hits very close to home as we in the United States approach an election year that is comprised of people doing the very same things under our noses. I don’t think the performances kept people away at the box offices, or the lack of action, but rather the realization that the whole story revolves around 2 campaign managers trying to win an election for candidates who have no redeeming qualities. It’s repulsive in real life and just as repulsive in fantasy. So despite Bullock’s good graces and the effort by everyone else, “Our Brand is Crisis” just isn’t a subject matter that people find enjoyable. It’s a solid effort and definitely wouldn’t make for a horrible rental, but the disappointment for something that had all the ear marks of being good is palpable.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Anthony Mackie, Billy Bob Thornton
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Peter Straughan (Screenplay), Rachel Boynton (Documentary)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 108 minutes
Own Our Brand Is Crisis on Blu-ray or DVD on February 2 or Own It Early on Digital HD on January 19!
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