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Movie Review: Our Brand Is Crisis

our-brand-is-crisis-2015-fragman_8809438-11580_1200x630Sandra Bullock returns to the big screen in political thriller Our Brand Is Crisis, delivering a performance on par with her Blind Side Oscar winner, Bullock proves once again that America’s sweetheart is a force to be reckoned with. Bullock stars alongside Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie and others, in this adaptation of a 2005 documentary by the same name. The film takes the political tricks and schemes used in a political consultant’s world and applies them to a modern Bolivia in a state of unrest – filmed mostly in New Orleans. It’s beautifully shot; the pastel towns and clay colored landscape effectively immerse viewers in the Bolivian rural setting.

Sandra Bullock captivates audiences as Jane Bodine, a retired political consultant who is hired to work on the campaign of Pedro Castillo, a former Bolivian president who is running again. Nicknamed “Calamity” because of the chaos she tends to cause to those around her, Bodine is dynamic in her political fierceness as well as her underlying hatred of what she does. Entertaining audiences by sweeping up us up in her whirlwind, mooning enemies and sabotaging her candidates’ opponents during debates, the female lead proves to be just as ruthless and cunning as her male counterparts.

That isn’t to say that Bodine doesn’t have a soft side. Her Machiavellian complex is perhaps only matched by her compassion that wars against her the entirety of the film as she fights for a man she doesn’t believe in.

Billy Bob Thornton plays the typical-creepy-guy Pat Candy that you’re pushed to hate from the very start when he approaches Bodine, all smarmy attitude and predatory eyes. It seems like a go-to for Thornton, whose played the same guy in 2003 romantic-comedy Love Actually and in the animated film Princess Mononoke. He certainty adds an element of rivalry to the film; playing the enemy of Bodine with a history of bad blood, the distain between the two of them is palpable.

It also is refreshing to see a film where people of color are played by actual people of color after box-office bombs Pan and Stonewall whitewashed their casts earlier this year. Newcomer Reynaldo Pacheco plays a young volunteer for the Castillo campaign and adds the pure, angel-over-your-shoulder presence amidst the corrupted political team edging for their equally phony candidates. He seems the only genuinely earnest character of the bunch, and his scenes, though subdued, are thoughtful and poignant.

Regardless of the actors generally positive performances, the movie itself didn’t ultimately leave the impression on it’s audience that it probably could have. The topic of political consultants molding their candidates and manipulating the public seems like a hit right from the description (and particularly relevant what with this years train-wreck of  presidential campaigns), but a dull screenplay by Peter Straughan left audiences satisfied but not particularly pleased. The screenplay was sharp, with witty back and forths between the pessimistic Bullock and the sleazy Thorton, but the lack of plot points to spur along action left much of the film dry in between substantial events.

Our Brand Is Crisis had all the makings of a great film that just fell flat. The political thriller had bursts of energy throughout, including a bus-chase, drunken shenanigans, and violent protests, but ended up being lackluster in a way that seemingly did not add up with the performances of those in it. “If you want to win, you’re going to have to take risks.” Claimed Bullock’s character several times during the film. If only Our Brand Is Crisis could have followed it’s own advice.

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