David Gordon Green is a talented filmmaker, but his career has had its ups and downs. Green got off to a strong start, making powerful dramas like Snow Angels. He further demonstrated his range as a director with the instant stoner comedy classic, Pineapple Express. After that, though, he seemed to completely give up with duds like Your Highness and The Sitter. While Green has been getting back on track as of late, Our Brand is Crisis is far from his most complete film. It certainly isn’t his worst film either. The whole movie is just below average, never quite reaching its potential.
Sandra Bullock is as charming as ever ‘Calamity’ Jane Bodine, a washed-up political consultant who comes out of retirement to work on a Bolivian presidential candidate’s campaign. Joaquim de Almeida plays the candidate who hires Jane and he doesn’t exactly have a way with people. Jane doesn’t put much effort into her job until she finds out her longtime rival (Billy Bob Thorton) is running an opponent’s campaign. After that, Jane springs into action by using American tactics to make her employer a world leader. In other words, she gets down and dirty.
One of the problems with Our Brand is Crisis is that it never fully develops any of these characters. Bullock is always likable, but there isn’t very much to her role other than some big speeches and quirky quips. We barely even get to know Almeida’s character and thus don’t really care if he wins, loses, or draws. The film also features an impressive supporting cast that includes Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan, and Scoot McNairy. None of them are ever really given the chance to shine, however.
As a comedy, Our Brand is Crisis often feels awkward and stinted. The only funny bits have already been given away in the trailers, a highlight being a hit and run involving a lama. There’s also a comedic bus chase that calls Bullock’s breakthrough role in Speed to mind. Most of the humor is just drawn from sitcom one-liners and lame slapstick, though. The film fails to find much comedy or wit in the behind the scenes process of a political campaign. Veep it certainly ain’t.
Our Brand is Crisis derived its inspiration from a 2005 documentary about the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. For a film about politics, though, it doesn’t have a ton to say. That is until we get to the final act where the screenwriters make commentary on the empty promises politicians make to get elected and the people that blindly follow them. This message might have packed a bigger punch if the film had stronger build up, but it just seems tacked on and unearned by this point. If you’re looking for a much better movie about the messy political game, check out out The Ides of March. Compared to that film, Our Brand is Crisis is basically what Bernie Sanders is to Hilary Clinton.