With the 2016 U.S. presidential election already garnering plenty of media attention, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a film like “Our Brand is Crisis” to remind everyone that politics is just a big sham. Loosely based on Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary of the same name (which detailed the marketing tactics employed by a team of American consultants led by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election), the movie delivers a watered-down version of those events that audaciously tries to get the audience to identify with its morally corrupt protagonist. The fact that she’s portrayed by America’s sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, is a genius piece of casting, because the actress could play Hitler’s mother and still come across somewhat likable, but it doesn’t mask the film’s tonal inconsistencies and lack of direction.
Bullock stars as “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a disgraced campaign strategist who’s been out of the political game for six years after a string of losses credited to her self-destructive behavior. But when Bolivian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) hires an elite American management team to run his campaign, only to find themselves 28 points behind in the polls with 90 days to go, Jane is approached in a last-ditch attempt to turn the ship around. It’s apparent to Jane within minutes of meeting Castillo that he’s a lost cause, but despite the seemingly impossible odds of closing the gap on populist candidate Victor Rivera (Louis Arcella), she agrees to take the job after discovering that the competition has hired its own American strategist, longtime rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who’s beaten her in every previous contest. For Jane, this is personal, and though Castillo’s Bolivian consultants strongly advise against running a negative campaign – they just don’t do that in their country – she convinces him that playing dirty is his only chance of winning.