"Our Brand is Crisis" was supposed to be a realization of director David Gordon Green's potential with big-budget projects (his film "George Washington" launched his career as an indie darling that culminated only in "Pineapple Express" and not too much since then). Unfortunately, this film saw its pre-release hype dissipate by the time it hit theaters for reasons I can't easily pin down with a few minutes of googling.
What I can say is that it's a definite shame this film didn't make it into the conversation for Oscar or gross more than $7 million domestically, because it's a richly textured film with a well-paced sense of adventure and exoticism.
The film revolves around the rivalry between two ace political strategists (Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton) working different sides of a Bolivian election with the cultural sensitivity of two seasoned board game players competing in a heated contest of Risk.
Bob Thornton's character is based on James Carville (between this, Saturday Night Live, and Documentary Now, he seems to be a standard part of any impressionist's repertoire). Bullock channels a slightly darker version of her frazzled but endearing rom-com persona in a part that was originally scripted for a male character and she steals the show.
A supporting cast of Scoot McNairy, Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan and Ann Dowd adds a cadre of characters with varying degrees of seriousness that makes for some memorable bantered dialogue. It's perhaps in keeping with the film's commentary on geopolitical ethno- centrism that the presidential candidatate (Joaquim de Almeida) is the least interesting character in the entourage. There is, however, a relationship that Sandra Bullock's character develops with a local teenager that comes closest to providing the film's protagonist with a moral awakening.
The film successfully threads the needle of thought-provoking without being overly preachy, even if
the resolution is slightly less profound than it thinks it is.