Much maligned but actually delivering a very astute, interesting and accurate dissection of modern-day politics, possibly why it was shunned by the Oscars, in a way that’s very easy to follow, and within a story that’s interesting and moves everything along at a very decent pace – only really falling down when it tries to deal with its characters outwith the confines of its central arc, where it mostly feels a little cold and flat.
Sandra Bullock stars as ‘Calamity’ Jane Bodine, the political strategic ace, brought out of retirement to help flagging ex-general Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) try to become Bolivia’s next president, and who’s rival in the arena is being coached by Jane’s old archnemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton).
Fictional, but based on Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary about American campaign tactics in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election, the movie feels very real with, on the face of it, connections to British politics, as we hear one story of someone spreading a rumour about their rival having fucked pigs purely so they could hear them deny it – in Britain the former Prime Minister, David Cameron (who resigned after declaring ‘why should I do the hard stuff?’), apparently actually did fuck a dead pig, or at least he inserted his penis into it’s mouth (there is reputedly photographic evidence of this). The pig probably had a tag on it that read ‘Poor People’. Similarly, we watch as Jane’s team runs with the ‘crises’ dialogue, with their candidate the only one that can save the country – here the Tories used the word ‘chaos’ relentlessly when talking about what would happen if they lost the vote, effectively assuming the voting populace were of a combined intellect equivalent to that of a herd of cattle (or swine perhaps). Lo and behold, they won all the elections.
Bullock is immense in this film, utterly convincing in the moments when she has to appear commanding and equally convincing when displaying restrained emotion. I was dead against her Oscar nomination for ‘Gravity‘ but I don’t understand why she didn’t get a nod for this, especially given some of the performances that did sneak in that year. Directed by David Gordon Green (‘Stronger’ 2017) and with Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan and Scoot McNairy in support, this is a really clever and understated film that deserved more attention that it received – it only lasted a single week on release here, which really smacks of political intervention given even a crummy film with Sandra Bullock that gets universally slated and bombs at the box office will still last at least two weeks normally.