Our Brand is Crisis (***)
Director: David Gordon Green
Running Time: 107 minutes
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy and Joaquim de Almeida
(Movie House Cinemas, Dublin Road, Press Screening 18/01/2016)
“You’re a fighter, Jane, and I’m giving you another shot at the title.”
WHEN setting out to write a film review there’s nothing worse than writing one for a three star movie, trying to say in roughly 500 words that it’s generally a little bit ‘meh’; it’s not really that bad, but it isn’t that great either. Well that’s exactly my problem with Sandra Bullock’s latest feature Our Brand is Crisis, a film loosely inspired by a 2005 documentary of the same name. It deals with a political consulting firm’s attempt to run a successful election campaign for a controversial Bolivian ex-president; sadly it’s a political satire that lacks any real bite.
There’s clearly some pedigree behind the movie, its screenplay was on Hollywood’s Black List of best unproduced screenplays and George Clooney was even attached to the project for quite some time; but whether it’s a problem inherent with the screenplay itself, David Gordon Green’s direction, Colin Patton’s editing or simply all of the above, the film suffers from a real identity crisis and just can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be.
At its core it’s a film about political spin, as Bullock’s character Jane Bodine is reluctantly persuaded to come out of retirement and manage the election campaign of a deeply unpopular candidate, whose campaign seems dead in the water. It works best when we see her character trying to manipulate the heightened political situation to her candidate’s advantage as she tries to make the make the controversial ex-president more palatable to a cynical Bolivian electorate; but it just dilutes its narrative with far too many subplots.
There’s an ongoing rivalry with long-term rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who conveniently works with another more popular candidate; whilst it provides many of the films bigger laughs, there’s just very little end product to their feisty relationship. There’s also the small matter of Jane’s ongoing battle with depression; which is mentioned once within the movie, then never really crops up again.
Frustratingly it tries so hard to wrap everything up nicely within the final act, it’s just so ridiculously silly and far too sickly sweet for its own good. The result is a film that might have the odd little moment here and there, but just can’t decide whether it wants to be a light-hearted political satire or an outright comedy in the mould of the Will Ferrell/ Zach Galifianakis feature, The Campaign.
The ever likeable Bullock is really the best thing about the entire movie, when the Oscar-winning actress is on form, she’s on form and here she holds everything together with a great central performance; reminiscent of Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. She’s clearly passionate about the project, after all it’s the first feature she’s produced since the truly terrible All about Steve in 2009 and whilst this movie is nowhere near as bad as that comedic stinker, it’s still a tad underwhelming, especially when you consider the cast includes talented actors like Anthony Mackie and Scoot McNairy.
This is a film that will probably find its home on the smaller screen rather than at the cinema; there’s really very little here that justifies the price of a cinema ticket, unless like myself you’re a massive Bullock fan.