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Our Brand is Crisis

Year: 2015
Production Co: Participant Media
Director: David Gordon Green
Writer: Peter Straughan
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Billy Bob Thornton, Joaquim de Almeida, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan

Back when this movie came out in cinemas the only news about it was how hard it flopped, so all this time I've been expecting it to be a cack handed turkey of monumental proportions.

It's actually not nearly that bad as all that. It's not terribly original – we've had plenty of incisive comedy satires about the sausage factory that goes on behind modern politicking – and it's certainly not a patch on the gold standard of the genre in Wag the Dog, but it's solidly built and performed. All I can put its spectacular financial failure down to is that it came out at the wrong time of year or wasn't marketed very well. It could have done with a snappier title at the very least.

Some of the critical comment I read was also incredibly harsh about the final scene, which jettisons all the knowing cynicism for rainbow-hued idealism, but however unrealistic it is it doesn't take away from the rest of the movie to the extent you might have read.

Sandra Bullock is Jane, a political consultant who's terminally sarcastic, scrappy, grizzled before her time and bereft of any enjoyment in the job because of a past campaign gone wrong.

Somehow, despite her having burned out over it, former colleagues Ben (Anthony Mackie) and Nell (Ann Dowd) convince her to join their newest battle – getting an unlikeable hardliner elected to the Presidency of Bolivia at a time of economic and social upheaval.

Deciding to take advantage of the unrest, Jane and her troops – opposed by a similarly gruff consultant on the other team they all know well, Pat (Billy Bob Thornton) – comes up with a strategy of convincing the populace the country is in crisis, positioning their candidate as a strongman who can right the ship and smearing the opposition with gleeful abandon.

Supporting characters orbit the main story like the starry eyed young man who works for the campaign and the researcher with Zen-like seer powers about demographics and profiles (Zoe Kazan, far too cute and perky to be playing a fast talking cynic and badly miscast), and the denouement only serves to convince even the world-weary pros at the centre of it all just how broken the whole game is.

Bullock does this kind of thing very well, and it's nice to see an actor like Mackie get his teeth into a real person instead of a quipping cypher with a CGI bird outfit for Marvel for a change.

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