Review: Our Brand is Crisis

Sandra Bullock stars Jane, a political strategist who was once heavily involved in politics but now lives as a recluse. Jane is approached by Ben (Anthony Mackie) to help their South American presidential candidate Castillo, who’s down by 26 points. Reluctant to join, Jane gets on-board when she learns her arch nemesis, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), is the strategist for the competition.

Jane and her team have 90 days to whip Castillo’s campaign into shape and win the presidency.

Our Brand is Crisis is being billed as a political drama but it’s a drama with a little politics sprinkled in. The first 2/3 of the film is the drama of Castillo’s campaign race. There’s the re-branding of Castillo, a graphic showing how many days until the election and where Castillo is at in the polls, and even Jane rising to the occasion to create a winning campaign.

The final 1/3……more like the final half of the final 1/3 is about the issues affecting South Americans. Characters mumble IMF a few times, but never explain the economics, how they impact the country or what the President’s role is. Anthony Mackie says with his serious Anthony Mackie face, “This actually kind of matters, Jane. This country could go under. We’re talking about people’s lives.” How? They never take a moment to explain it. Not one.

Our Brand is Crisis ends on emotional beats that audiences are supposed to care about. The film is literally asking audiences to care about something it never explains. What makes it worse is Jane’s “aha” moment is completely unearned. Before that scene we learn Jane did something terrible and she shows zero remorse for it. Jane even  gives a rousing speech saying, “I’m not going to stand by as this nation falls apart”, but it’s a speech to get people to campaign harder so she can beat Candy. It’s never about the people. Audiences should care about Jane’s plight because she suddenly cares about poor people? In the words of Double X Posse, “Not gonna be able to do it”.

Before the film falls off an emotional cliff, the story is standard at best. Sandra Bullock does Sandra Bullock things. Billy Bob plays the same slick character he’s played the past few years, while the two of them hate-flirt with each other. And Anthony Mackie continues to make Anthony Mackie faces.

There’s an entire sequence that involves two campaign buses racing on a cliff like Fast & Furious that ends with Sandra Bullock mooning the other bus. That scene is as pointless as it sounds.

Our Brand is Crisis is more forgettable drama than political drama. It was an opportunity to tell a story about politics through the eyes of the people who run campaigns; instead it’s a detached story with a preachy ending that asks more of its audience than it gives. At least we got multiple Anthony Mackie faces.

Grade: C-