Our Brand Is Crisis is a 2015 American comedy-drama film directed by David Gordon Green and written by Peter Straughan. Based on the 2005 documentary film of the same name by Rachel Boynton, it is a fictionalized account of the involvement of American political campaign strategists Greenberg Carville Shrum (GCS) in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. The film stars Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd and Joaquim de Almeida.
Principal photography began on September 29, 2014, in New Orleans, Louisiana. George Clooney and Grant Heslov produced. The film was screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. It was theatrically released by Warner Bros. on October 30, 2015, to mixed reviews and was a box office disappointment.
In 2002, Bolivian politician Pedro Castillo (a fictionalized version of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada) hires an American political consulting firm (based on James Carville's Greenberg Carville Shrum firm) to help him win the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. The firm brings in Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) to manage the campaign in Bolivia. The opposition's political consultant is her nemesis, fellow American Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton). In Bolivia the situation is tense: the indigenous people, who are a majority in the country, are protesting for a constitutional reform, to get proper representation.
The American consultants, not knowing the language or the culture, are persuaded by Bodine, a burned out political strategist, to follow a strategy of smear campaigning. However, Castillo refuses to give permission for the team to do so. It is only after publishing a flyer accusing Castillo of a long ago affair (and blaming it on the opposition) does Castillo agree to smear his opponents likewise.
In the following months, the team exercises a strategy of declaring a crisis. They are planning on frightening the people, so they would be persuaded to vote for the unsympathetic but known Castillo rather than the younger oppositions' candidates. Also they publish photos of their enemy with a wanted Nazi war criminal in the background, so that he has to deny being a Nazi. Castillo's bus is stopped by a group of protesters who don't want the International Monetary Fund in Bolivia. Castillo promises not to invite the IMF without a referendum. Eduardo, a young volunteer of the Castillo campaign, is deeply impressed by this. His loyalty comes mostly from the fact that Castillo, who was President at the time, took Eduardo on his arm, during a rally in his town.
Nevertheless, his brothers are much more skeptical about Castillo.
During the final debate, Bodine cites a quote in her conversation with Candy, which he gives to Rivera in his speech, saying that "a great man" said it. Unfortunately the quote is actually from Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda and one of Hitler's closest allies.
Castillo wins the vote by a small margin. As one of his first actions, he invites the IMF, thereby breaking his promise. The deeply disappointed Eduardo visits Bodine in her hotel, who says that she is not responsible for Castillo's actions. In her eyes, her job is done.
The disillusioned Eduardo joins his brothers at a demonstration of people demanding change. The police arrive and the demonstration quickly turns into a riot.
Bodine and her crew are with Candy on the way to the airport. All of them, except Bodine, already have jobs as political consultants in other countries.
Bodine realizes that she brought a liar into office and leaves the car. At the demonstration she meets Eduardo. In a final clip of the TV interview she has been shown giving throughout the movie, it's revealed that she is now the head of an organization that promotes Latin American solidarity.
On April 22, 2007, it was announced that George Clooney would produce a dramatization of the 2005 documentary Our Brand Is Crisis, along with Grant Heslov, and Warner Bros. would handle American distribution rights. Peter Straughan was set to write the script, with Clooney attached as a potential director and star for the film, about the 2002 Bolivian presidential election's campaign by James Carville's Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which was hired by candidate Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. On December 11, 2013, Sandra Bullock was in early talks to star in the film, while Clooney chose not to direct, and his starring in the film was also unconfirmed at that time. On August 21, 2014, Bullock's casting was confirmed, playing a retired political consultant called 'Calamity' Jane Bodine, and David Gordon Green was set to direct the film. On September 11, Scoot McNairy was added to the cast. On September 15, Billy Bob Thornton joined the film, and on September 18, Anthony Mackie joined the cast. On September 24, Ann Dowd joined the film. On October 10, Joaquim de Almeida and Zoe Kazan joined the cast, with Almeida playing Castillo, the former president of Bolivia, and Kazan playing a young woman who finds dirt on political candidates. On October 13, 2014, Participant Media announced that they would co-finance the film with Warner, while Jeffrey Skoll and Jonathan King would executive produce, along with Bullock and Stuart M. Besser. More casting was also announced, which included Reynaldo Pacheco, Dominic Flores, Louis Arcella, and Octavio Gómez.
Principal photography on the film began on September 29, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana, using 35mm film. Filming also took place in the Bonnet Carré Spillway in Norco in St. Charles Parish. Additional filming occurred in Puerto Rico and Bolivia.
Our Brand Is Crisis grossed $7 million in North America and $1.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $8.6 million, against a budget of $28 million.
The film opened on October 30, 2015, alongside Burnt and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. In its opening weekend, it was projected to make $5–7 million from 2,202 theaters, however only ended up grossing $3.2 million, finishing eighth at the box office. This was the lowest wide release opening of Bullock's career, beating 1996's Two If by Sea ($4.7 million).
Our Brand Is Crisis received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 35%, based on 147 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's consensus reads, "Our Brand Is Crisis offers sporadic amusement and benefits from a talented cast, but ultimately lacks enough of a bite to add much of interest to the political satire genre." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 53 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, indicating a negative reaction from paying viewers.
Eric Kohn from Indiewire wrote that the movie is all about Bullock's performance, saying "she imbues her part with a ferocious energy that constantly elevates the straightforward material". Peter Debruge from Variety thought that Jane Bodine, played by Bullock, "is easily one of the best female roles of the last 10 years," while Benjamn Lee from The Guardian wrote that "Bullock seems blissfully unaware of the film’s faults and delivers a performance that expertly plays on her strengths - her comic timing, wasted in lesser, plane-ready comedies, is on top form and she imbues her neurotic character with more than the thinly sketched quirks provided on the page; she commands a room when needed, perfects scenes of physical comedy and even turns a climax of forced sentiment into something poignant and believable"; he concluded that "while the film is patchy, Bullock's brand is confidently crisis-free".