Our Brand Is Crisis, film review: ‘Celebrity over substance’

PUBLISHED: 15:57 24 January 2016

Our Brand Is Crisis. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

Our Brand Is Crisis. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

Archant

This look at the evils of political PR ends up replicating its subject, rather than exposing it, writes Michael Joyce.

Director: David Gordon Green 
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan, Joaquim de Almeida and Scoot McNairy 
Film Length: 107 mins

Our Brand Is Crisis is a film about the evils of political PR that has no idea how to get its message across. It wants to be a dark and absurd comedy drama about the debased and trivialised nature of the political process, but it comes across as a Hollywood star vehicle that debases and trivialises a serious topic.

The film takes its title and inspiration from a documentary made 10 years ago about the 2002 Presidential election in Bolivia, where a team of American spin doctors rode into town and got an unpopular, authoritarian candidate elected. Here Bullock is a washed up campaign strategist who is persuaded to go South America to work for an unpopular candidate, because it’s one last chance to get one over on her arch enemy Pat Candy (Thornton), who is overseeing the frontrunner’s campaign. Once there she immerses the locals in the dark arts while indulging in larky escapades. The idea that the political process is a zany slapstick farce, where the actual candidates are largely irrelevant and everything is down to the prowess of the marketing, has traction. The film’s big problem is that, ironically, it is reluctant to go dirty, to lower itself to mud slinging. Bullock and her team do evil things, say evil things and seem to revel in their own heartlessness yet the film doesn’t seem to notice this. Bolivia will be sold out to the IMF but Sandra Bullock may rediscover her idealism. The film is not exposing the debased nature of modern political discourse, it is replicating it – personality over policy, celebrity over substance, soundbites over dialogue.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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