An American woman, well-versed in political campaigns, is sent to the war-torn lands of South America to help install a new leader but is threatened to be thwarted by a long-term rival.
Sandra Bullock is an actress I’ve long admired, ever since I first saw her in the cheesy-but-fun 1989 TV movie, “Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman.” Granted, it would be another five years before she truly made an impression in 1994’s “Speed” with Keanu Reeves and the rest as they say, is history. She has been very selective with her roles over the years and this paid off big-time when she won an Academy Award for her bravura performance in “The Blind Side” in 2009, although personally, I felt her role as astronaut Ryan Stone in the visually spectacular “Gravity,” was more deserving.
With “Our Brand is Crisis,” Ms. Bullock has chosen another wonderful character-driven vehicle in which she is the lead driver, accompanied by a plethora of impeccable supporting character actors including Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd and an undeniably sleazy Billy Bob Thornton. Ms. Bullock plays Jane Bodine, also known as “Calamity” Jane because wherever she goes, catastrophe is not far behind, depending on whose side you are on but she is considered to be one of the best political strategists in the business and has won more unwinnable campaigns than anyone else. That is of course, until Billy Bob Thornton’s Pat Candy changed all that and she has lost to him more times than she cares to remember.
Having retired from politics and moved to the snowy mountains, far away from civilization, she is contacted by her old campaign friend Nell (Ann Dowd), who asks her to fly down to South America with her to help get a Bolivian politician elected President. Initially reluctant as she left that life behind her, she quickly changes her mind when Ann informs her that Pat Candy is on the opposing team. Immediately she is on a plane heading south.
Once there however, she just cannot warm up to Pedro Gallo (Joaquim de Almeida), the Presidential contender who has hired Jane and her team to help him win his campaign. He is standoffish, unemotional and arrogant, character traits Jane is pretty sure the Bolivian people do not want in their President and attributes that turn her off instantly. But when Pat fires the first negative round against Jane’s campaign, she decides that after four defeats, it will not happen again and it is at this point she rolls up her sleeves and begins to work her magic. She is brusque and matter-of-fact with Pedro, something he despises but when some of her strategies actually play to his weaknesses and begin to turn the polls around, his faith in her is reinvested. As they tour the country, trying to win voters, the two, still somewhat skeptical of the other, allow themselves to at least be professionally courteous toward each other.
With Pat anticipating Jane’s every move, she struggles to stay ahead of him and will do whatever it takes to win the race, including resorting to the all-too-necessary dirty tricks handbook. This is politics after all and everyone, and everything, is fair game. Director David Gordon Green handles the drama and much-needed humor with great aplomb and allows his actors a wide berth of artistic freedom. The acting never once feels forced and Bullock gives a trustworthy performance as a strategist who although she has been playing the game for many years, primarily feels deceived by the outcome in the movie’s finale and then wonders why she is not surprised. I think that’s something we all relate to after every Presidential election.
In theaters October 30th
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