Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Our Brand Is Crisis Review

Man, Our Brand Is Crisis could have been something truly special. How do I know this? Because the elements in here that work are legitimately exceptional. But there just aren't enough aspects in this feature that excel, especially considering the meandering pace that consumes the story and stretches the movies 107 minute running time into what feels like eternity. Under a script by Peter Straughan and direction from David Gordon Green, Our Brand Is Crisis tells the tale of Jane (Sandra Bullock), a political strategist trying to get a successful presidential election campaign going for Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida).

Even with Jane's expertise though, this endeavor is the very definition of an uphill climb, especially since the most formidable rival presidential candidate is having his campaign managed by Jane's long-time rival Pat (Billy Bob Thornton). Now, here's a story crammed with potentially engrossing plot points and stacked with impeccable actors (Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd and Scoot McNairy make up the supporting cast), and yet, all of it gets wasted on a story with shockingly little in the way of meaty thematic content.

Instead, Our Brand Is Crisis goes through the motions in an episodic manner that came across to me as sloppy and tedious. It's such a lackadaisical endeavor for much of its running time that anytime the film strives to bring some darker material into the story (namely, the backstory for why Jane and Pat are so antagonistic), the more somber content sticks out like a sore thumb. There's a similar lack of success when the motion picture tries to deliver comedic moments, with surprisingly subpar execution and timing floundering any and all undertakings to inject some levity into the tale.

It's a shame that the screenplay falls flat on its face in those efforts, since Sandra Bullock toils like hell to create a nuanced personality in Jane via her performance. Her undaunted demeanor piercing through her body language even in her darkest moments, Bullock lends real gravitas to the film that it so desperately needs. Even if the overall feature feels more confused than anything else when it comes to what themes it wants its story to touch upon, Bullock isn't afraid to grab the bull by the horns and turns a character that could have been the ultimate platitude (the flawed, no BS individual who gets results dammit) and makes her a fully developed and engaging human being. It's also a smart move on the scripts part to make sure that Jane's tactics for the campaign actually make sense and are grounded in logic, one can actually see the thought process behind why she would go down certain routes in this campaign.

No one else in the cast manages to shine like Bullock (though Almeida does have some choice moments towards the end), but they're all at least a likable bunch that keep the movie flowing even it's most apathetic sequences.But a strong cast can only do so much, and a crippling lack of substance ensures that Our Brand Is Crisis never becomes the kind of top-notch feature it could have been. Even the solidly bleak climax undermines its appropriately desolate atmosphere by sprinkling on unnecessary notes of sentimentality in its final moments.

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