Given both our own and the upcoming American elections, Our Brand is Crisis feels maybe a little too topical for its own good. Based on the documentary of the same name, the film follows Jane (Sandra Bullock), a talented political strategist who is coaxed out of early-retirement to help revive the election hopes of a Bolivian presidential candidate whose political campaign is dead in the water.
Sandra Bollock does a fine job as the film’s center but it’s often the actors around her who end up coming off as more interesting. Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd have fun supporting roles within Jane’s firm and Billy Bob Thornton is suitably cartoonish as Pat Candy, who’s rivalry with Jane drives a lot of the film.
Our Brand is Crisis takes a little too much time finding its feet – playing with frame narratives and a few bouts of altitude sickness – but once it gets going things pick up considerably. The film makes good use of Sandra Bullock’s performance but there’s just not a lot to the character drama in the film, and the time the script spends on it come with a cost to the fascinating subtext the film grapples with.
There are so many rich ideas that get glanced over here from class struggle to political realism to the relative ethics of democracy in times of economic crisis. Unfortunately, scenes that could have been used to explore these elements are often cut short in order to find time to flesh out Jane’s history with Candy and show how her relationship with the political process ultimately turns from disdain and cynicism to genuine engagement.
Similarly, the film makes great use of the cinematography afforded to it by its South American setting but its undercut a little by the editing, which feels occasionally choppy and amateurish. The film often feels distant from the character it’s trying to make you care about and while the way it uses infographics is neat, it’s used a little too inconsistently to be effective.
Our Brand Is Crisis is mostly serviceable but it never really distinguishes itself. It plays things too light to work as a drama and the scant handful of laughs make it hard to call it a comedy. Disappointingly, the film is playing with a richer deck of cards than most but ends up playing a hand you’ve probably seen before.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
No special features included on the disc.
Special Features Score: N/A