Our Brand Is Crisis (Blu-ray)

July 20, 2018

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Sandra Bullock played a cutthroat politico operative parachuted into Bolivia to help a flagging candidate go on the attack and take down a front-runner. The movie was supposed to be a comedy but it didn’t make a whole lot of people laugh much. Instead, it painted a pretty cynical picture of a political strategist crafting a take-no-prisoners smear campaign with close to no regard for the consequences.

The movie has a dark comedy bite and the anti-heroes aren’t the usual suspects. They aren’t the usual soulless capitalists indifferent to human suffering in the name of profit. They are, in theory at least, progressives. Folks on the left able to rationalize whatever works.

They’re the kinds of people who’d say: “We are in this because we not only believe in democracy but in a particular brand of democracy, which is progressive, social democratic, market-based and modern,” …even as they tear down a popular, progressive politician to win.

Now, here’s where it gets a bit loco… The characters ARE based on real people. The 2015 “Our Brand is Crisis” was actually based on a 2005 documentary of the same name – which was itself based on the very real 2002 Bolivian election.

The original documentary covered a very real campaign engineered by American political strategists to crush a Bolivian front-runner through negative, smear-heavy tactics… …and just like in the Bullock version, in real life, their guy won…

The Bullock version had been Hollywooded up in one major way. In the actual 2002 campaign, none of the three main political strategists who cooked up the dirty, come-from-behind win were women. They were all men. One was James Carville. Another was pollster Jeremy Rosner.

…and the 3rd was a guy named Tad Devine. In the 2005 doc, it was Devine who gave the film its title after he summed up the strategy to stoke fear to win: “Our brand is Crisis” – as in, make people believe the country was in crisis… and paint their guy as the one to fix it.

The 2005 film was pretty dark and critics savaged the real-life actions of the real-life operatives (Rosner, Devine and Carville). As one said, “Only a nihilist would not be alarmed by […] by its suggestion of a systemic separation of modern politics and the national good.”

Now, part of that was because in real life, after Devine, et al, got their guy elected, he proved to be a disastrous leader and was promptly forced out of office by civilian protests that turned deadly and lead to 67 deaths. Sometimes actions have consequences.

Credit to @HoarseWisperer

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