“Our Brand is Crisis” is an interesting premise stuck in an uneven movie.
It’s a film that can’t decide whether it wants to twist the knife of political satire or get on the soap box with a profound statement about the system of political campaigns. The result is a film with flashes that hint at something better than the final product.
In “Crisis,” Sandra Bullock plays Jane, a damaged political strategist who is recruited to go to Bolivia and help a candidate named Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) revive his stagnant presidential campaign.
When Jane arrives she discovers the political consultant for Castillo’s main challenger is her old rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), which makes her even more determined to win the election at any cost.
With Bullock, Thornton and director David Gordon Green – the man behind a couple of underrated gems “Undertow” and “Snow Angels” – attached, I expected much more out of “Our Brand is Crisis.”
When “Crisis” focuses on campaign strategies it has some moments that make for great satire. There is also plenty of talent in the supporting cast – Ann Dowd, Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan – but the potential is never tapped to its fullest.
Bullock and Thornton are both interesting, but Peter Straughan’s screenplay is more concerned with focusing on their personal rivalry, which is the least interesting and most predictable part of the plot.
The film’s tone – which is all over the map – doesn’t help. At one point “Crisis” tries to be some kind of kooky comedy, with Bullock mooning the rival bus during a race to get to a campaign stop. It’s a stark contrast to a final act, which attempts to be an insightful examination into an election and how candidates will do or say whatever to get elected.
It’s as if the two scenes belonged in two separate movies, yet both are in this film. “Crisis” is a film that’s main crisis proves to be its inner-struggle to find a true voice.
Also in theaters
A film that attempts to make similar political statements, yet works much better is “Truth” (B) – an intriguing examination into media and government officials anchored by strong work from Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford.
“Truth” retells the story of the 2004 “60 Minutes” report right before the presidential election investigating then-President George W. Bush’s military service that came under fire for its reporting and dispute of facts – criticism that would cost anchor Dan Rather (Redford) and producer Mary Mapes (Blanchett) their reputations and ultimately their jobs.
The film is told from Mapes’ perspective, as the producer who is at first praised for the piece, but as cracks in the story continue to appear, has her reputation as a journalist damaged beyond repair.
For a journalist, this is an intriguing study of the business and the importance of strong reporting. It’s a story that I found to be fascinating as it unfolded.
I will concede that some may see “Truth” as one-sided, with the film not emphasizing some questionable journalistic shortcuts as much as it wants to place the blame on Bush and CBS higher-ups.
The argument for Mapes and Rather is compelling, however, with writer/director James Vanderbilt making a strong case that they were in the right.
Of course it helps your argument when the two characters are played by two of the most engrossing actors today, Blanchett and Redford. Both are very good, especially Blanchett, who continues to build an impressive resume.
Their performances, along with a supporting cast that includes Dennis Quaid, Stacy Keach and Elisabeth Moss, help to make the material better, taking what could have felt like a TV movie of the week and turning it into a engaging feature film.
“Truth” is rated R for language and a brief nude photo and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.